Self-Censorship Trumps Official Censorship

FAIR associate Norman Solomon (Creators Syndicate, 2/14/09) tells why he’s concerned the potential lifting of the government ban on press photography of war casualties’ coffins isn’t “particularly good news”:

I wrote in my book War Made Easy that ambiguity is part of the process that we bring to the media-consuming table: “Visual images may be among the most powerful messages we receive about war, but those graphic messages still leave it to us to assign them meaning. And we, in turn, assess meaning not so much because of what’s in front of our eyes as because of what’s behind them–our assumptions and attitudes–influenced and shaped, probably much more than we would prefer to admit, by cues from political leaders, pundits and reporters who function as role models with their reactions, including what they say and don’t say.”

Solomon’s fear is that, minus any crucial reportorial context about the brutal reality of war, the photos might “mostly excite the nationalistic pride that exalts the fallen as the bravest of the brave and heighten the fervor of the facile notion that others must die to affirm that the earlier dead did not die in vain”–in the larger picture, “unless the mindset and context of how the public sees that photography undergo a major shift, war will go on.”

Read FAIR’s magazine Extra!: “From Self-Censorship to Official Censorship: Ban on Images of Wounded GIs Raises No Media Objections” (March/April 2007) by Pat Arnow