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The Flag of the World

-G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

This here blog is a glimpse or two or three at the condition of the 'fortress of our family' through the eyes Timothy Goddard, a Christian writer with an unhealthy interest in politics living in the Puget Sound area.

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Sunday, April 27, 2003


War correspondents and American cultural taboos
I just watched the tail end of CNN's War Stories From The Front Lines, a collection of pretty much unedited video from embeds and other war correspondents, interspersed with descriptions by the reporters and cameramen of the situation and how they percieved it. It was generally very good, especially the footage from the tense standoff between troops and Iraqi Muslims outside the mosque in Najaf, and the footage of the return of seven of the POWs. Both scenes were remarkable and emotional, and I can't help but think that they changed the reporters just as much as the others involved. I hope that this war becomes a defining moment for war correspondents, undoing the damage done when Vietnam became the defining moment.

But there was one vignette that was less impressive. It was, presumably, CNN's token see-the-military-isn't-all-that-helpful-anyway story. A young reporter was at a US Military operational base of some sort, when a car came speeding in with a wounded civilian. As reporters are wont to do, he tried taping it, but was told to get away by the soldiers, one of whom yelled something to the effect of "I won't let you take pictures of dying people!" Another asked "why do you have to be such a ghoul?"

The reporter interpreted this as "shame" at having injured Iraqi civilians and as the soldiers trying to prevent these images from being seen so that people wouldn't think poorly of them, or something. These are similar to the accusations leveled at various American news organizations for not showing bodies, for not showing the "true carnage of war" and all that. Even James Lileks was annoyed at it, though he didn't ascribe the same guilt-ridden or propagandist motives to it that others, such as the CNN reporter described above, have ascribed to it.

Those motives are hooey. The reason American news networks don't show footage of bloody casualties is the same reason American soldiers don't want reporters filming them--we consider it disrespectful--"ghoulish," one might say. Now, maybe there's no good reason for it, except that it's a piece of our culture. But that, I think, is a plenty good reason. If American soldiers can get down on their knees and walk away from an angry crowd with their backs turned to them irn reverence for Iraqi culture, I think that journalists and news networks can abstain from bloody images of the dead, dying and wounded in reverence for American culture.

This is one of my complaints with much of the left--they'd never even consider giving as much reverence to American culture as they do to every other culture on the planet.
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