But the Gaddafi video making the internet rounds today doesn’t attempt to offer a greater understanding of war and its costs at all. Rather, it’s death porn, a snuff film in which Gaddafi, a criminal human being but a human being nonetheless, is treated like nothing more than a piñata. What are we supposed to glean from the footage? That Gaddafi is dead? That Libyans are angry with him? Do we need to see Libyans kicking and spitting on a dead body to understand either of those facts?
What are the proper limits on the reporting of war? Someone recently said that Americans are incredibly naive about the true atrocities of war and I have to agree. The watering down of war; protecting viewers from seeing real images associated with armed conflict, loss of life and property, the maiming and raping of citizens and land seems to have given Americans the impression that war is more like Alice in Wonderland than Apocalypse Now.
How do we rectify this, by pasting images of death and violence on our television screens to make the impact more real? Or should we continue to protect citizens from the harsh reality in favor of toned down images, a sort of “war lite” if you will? What can be gained from showing the real face of war; a deeper understanding or more empathetic citizenry? Or might it simply work to reinforce what citizens already think about those groups engaged in bloody, military combat around the world?