Friday, December 16, 2005

The Fog Of War (Reporting)

Wayyyyyyyyyyy back in September, at the behest of my researcher and good friend, Katrina, I posted a story about the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and how you'll never read about it in the American press.

I was wrong.

And right. Comes Sydney Schanberg, talking about torture:
So what makes this a story about the press? It's because for a host of reasons, reporters and their proprietors, who surely know that torture is a constant in war, all too rarely address such subjects in detail as moral issues or issues of psychological damage to returning soldiers. Returnees, including reporters, come back with lots of mental scars. Some have to do with the ugly things they've witnessed. Others relate to heavy guilt over not being able to save a pal or leaving behind needy foreign friends when you leave the war zone.

One of the reasons the press is reluctant to report graphically and in depth about the torture and brutishness of war is the fear of backlash from readers or viewers who don't want to see or hear about war's true-life destruction. In television dramas or at the movies, audiences are not threatened by depictions of slaughter and gore, because they can dismiss it as the magic of special effects.

But whatever the press's reasons or rationalizations for not discussing subjects like torture with greater candor and pictorial force, they don't pass the test of being honest with the public. I've written often about how we in the press don't live up to the mantra we keep intoning as our raison d'ĂȘtre: "the public's right to know."

Why shouldn't we tell people more about terrible things that happen regularly in our world? What's the point in not doing so, now that there's an Internet peering into every hamlet on the planet, looking at matters bright as well as dark?

Readers or viewers can always turn the page or switch to another channel if a story upsets them. And I'm not talking about gratuitous depictions of violence, just about real happenings.
Soldiers don't kill soldiers. People kill other people. People live with the consequences of those actions for the rest of their lives, while the generals and politicians who send them off to war can sit around their fireplaces sipping sherry (or near beer, in the case of certain redneck Presidents), and fulminate about their successes, distract themselves from their failures, and ignore the very real damage they inflicted on people, enemies, allies, but also and more important, fellow citizens.

Go read the article here. The press ought to be reporting on this instead of whether Jessica Simpson's shirt was too low cut for a family Holid...Christmas concert.