Thursday, August 03, 2006

The CNN Effect

Frida Ghitis has a must-read piece in the Los Angeles Times on the insidious effets of television images in a time of war:

The tears and the rage and the destruction are absolutely real. By confronting us with the ugliness of war, the images force us to keep human suffering in the forefront — exactly where it should be. And yet television images of suffering pack so much power that they overwhelm every other kind of information. They can cripple our ability to understand what is really happening.

I went into the streets of Amsterdam to hear from residents who, unlike me, fully understood the narration that came with the pictures on their local news. Not surprisingly, the images dominated their thoughts to the exclusion of virtually everything else.

Bram Jipen talked about "those poor children, with the big eyes." Everyone agreed that the war should stop immediately, and the majority — with some viciously bigoted exceptions — thought it was "everybody's fault." It seemed that TV destroyed the ability to differentiate, to analyze.

"They're both stupid," Gerard Jansan told me, righteously succumbing to the easy morality of blaming all sides. Viewing pictures of children with skin burned off their faces, it seems inhumane to even ponder the causes of war or, more inconceivable, whether a war might be justified.

It's worth reading the whole thing.


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