Posts Tagged ‘news’

Forgetting what we want to

September 27th, 2010

Among the many debased features of our contemporary public discourse is the tendency to evade discomfort by referring it to someone else.  We had a pristine example of this tonight on National Public Radio.  The story had to do with some pictures taken by American soldiers in Afghanistan of themselves with a corpse, or corpses.  The pictures are evidence in legal actions against the soldiers by the Army.  Whether the corpse or corpses were Taliban or civilians is a point of contention.  The judicial officer in charge of the proceedings has ruled that the pictures can’t be made public.  Among other reasons for this ruling, the reporter said, was the disrepute which such pictures would bring upon the American armed forces.  Publication of the Abu Ghraib pictures had stirred great anger and anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world, said the reporter.  It was unclear to me whether this observation was drawn from the judge’s ruling, or was the reporter’s gloss on the ruling.  Either way, I said to myself, were foreigners and Muslims alone in being sickened and outraged by those atrocities?  Were there no Americans who found the Abu Ghraib photos revolting evidence of the perpetrators’ degradation and that of those at whose orders and by whose leave they acted?  Of course there were, tens of millions of us, maybe hundreds of millions.  But making that collective domestic grief and disgust a guide to action implies a host of difficult and unpleasant questions, not least among which are, why are George Bush and John Yoo and their confederates at large today instead of behind bars, awaiting trial?  It’s easier just to mentally relocate the whole thing overseas.  Then instead of dealing with our feelings about what is done in our name, and our complicity in it, we have the much simpler problem of how to deal with others’ responses to it, made even simpler by the convenience of imagining them as unfriendly to begin with.  I am not so much concerned whose interest is served by shunting the discomfort of this memory on to an “other.”  Although it is obvious who benefits from such a maneuver, I am sure that the NPR reporter, adherent to a somewhat mythical but nevertheless demanding standard of journalistic objectivity, would be offended by and rightly dismissive of the idea that he was helping to exculpate the war criminals responsible for Abu Ghraib.  The judge certainly would be justifiably offended!  Perhaps the reporter or the judge also would be offended by my suggestion that he fell victim to the easy thought, the conventional trope, the unexamined, reflexive elision of uncomfortable truth into comfortable slur.  But that is what I believe he did, although he should have known better.

Are you listening, Barrie Dunsmore?

September 24th, 2010

A gurney used in Indiana for lethal injections

National Public Radio reported this morning on yesterday’s execution of Teresa Lewis by the state of Virginia.  The reporter, stationed outside the death chamber, gave us an eyewitness description of Ms. Lewis’ demeanor as she  went in.  According to the reporter, she looked scared.  The reporter repeated this several times.  That was evidently the strongest impression on the reporter’s mind.

On the same broadcast, our local station, Vermont Public Radio, carried a commentary by a former network news luminary about the decline of journalism in the face of blogging and internet media.  He opined that people seek out coverage that they find congenial in preference to  journalism that tells it like it is.

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