Thursday, September 08, 2005

Why I'm Not a Journalist

Because I wouldn't want to make the decision whether to show the dead bodies in New Orleans. I get the reason not to: I wouldn't want a picture of a family member or friend floating dead in the water to show up on the front page of the newspaper or on a newscast. And if I could believe that this is FEMA's real reason for asking journalists not to take photos of the dead, I could maybe respect that. But I think we can all agree that the leadership at FEMA*---and the Bush administration---doesn't give a damn about the people. They want to control the public image of the crisis.

And so I also get the reason to show pictures of the dead: so people can understand, can really grasp what happened. We can read about decomposing corpses being eaten by rats and the elderly slumped dead in their wheelchairs. We can hear the projected numbers. But for most people, those facts are too abstract, too far removed from anything they could imagine. The tide turned against the war in Vietnam when people started seeing the coffins coming back and the mutilated bodies of those who were "fortunate" enough to survive. People began to understand what war is really like. We react to images differently than we react to words. And we kind of need that reaction---horror, outrage, disgust---right now.

I'm glad I'm not the one who has to decide.

On a related note, although television reporters somewhat redeemed their profession in the past two weeks (I can now forgive Anderson Cooper for running out of gas in Bosnia, and there was a guy on NBC and MSNBC who just rocked and I wish I could remember his name. Chris something? Not Chris Matthews), why is it that the most insightful and compassionate coverage of this is still coming from the gossip blogs?

Update: His name is Carl Quintanilla, which is kind of close to Chris Something.

* I want to be clear that I do believe there are many, many hardworking, compassionate, and brave people working for FEMA. The blame for this is on the leaders who did everything but lead.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home