September 28, 2004

Media Masterminds

I'm amazed, sometimes, at the conflicting power, and non-power, of horrific images.

I could, for example, watch stock footage of mountains of stick-like dead concentration camp victims of World War II stacked up like firewood and think "wow, that was bad," and keep watching anyways.

But, I can't bring myself to watch a bunch of black-hooded thugs hack another man's head off while he screams in agony. I just can't do it.

I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because I'm more at ease seeing people who are already dead, with their lifeless eyes staring into infinity, but seeing the actual instant of helpless death is more troubling. Maybe because I can imagine myself actually getting my head lopped off more than I can imagine what might be done with my body once I'm gone.

I find it odd is all, that repeated viewings of WWII concentration camp horrors, or the killing fields of Cambodia, or the mass graves unearthed in Iraq, illicit murmurings of remorse, but not much else; yet footage of a kidnapped man about to lose his life at the hands of thugs can actually affect governmental policy.

Terrorists may be a blight upon this planet, but I have to give them one thing: they know how to manipulate the media. It's more than just a little creepy.

Posted by Ryan at September 28, 2004 12:13 PM

i agree: stacks of dead bodies are grusome but not intolerable.

seeing someone writhing in pain and being tortured, or even a small starving child with no food, or even a DOG starving and in pain, i can't watch at all.

it's the act of dying that scares most of us, not being dead.

Posted by: leblanc at September 28, 2004 12:26 PM

I'd rather see piles of dead people than look at clowns. Clowns are scarier than death.

Posted by: Rick at September 28, 2004 12:55 PM

Yeah, but what if they're DEAD clowns? What it it's an entire concentration camp of dead clowns? How scary would that be?

Posted by: Ryan at September 28, 2004 12:59 PM

↑ ↑ ↑
Surely you meant "how much of 'a good start' would that be?"

Posted by: Hack Owen at September 28, 2004 01:06 PM

I stand corrected.

And, how did you get those cool arrows to show up?

Posted by: Ryan at September 28, 2004 01:12 PM

Just type a character code preceded by an ampersand and followed by a semicolon. For example if you type ↑ ↑ ↑ (uarr stands for up arrow) it will show up as ↑↑↑.

Posted by: Hack Owen at September 28, 2004 02:17 PM

I've not made any attempt to try and see any of the beheadings, there's no point. I know it'll make me want to crawl out of my own skin.

Terrorists understand that most of the war they fight is done in the media, they know how to use it well. If the US media didn't broadcast their videos, demands and footage of carnage then they would have quite alot less power.

But just try to get any major news agency to stop pushing the death so much and they'll just say that everyone else is so they have to. Catch-22 on a national media scale.

Posted by: Johnny Huh? at September 28, 2004 02:27 PM

I think red makes a difference.

I notice it in those old tintypes of Civil War casualties. A soft lead .36 caliber slug pretty much turns a person into hamburger. But in those old photos, the bodies are lying in grass or in dirt, and the blood-- if you can see it at all --just shows up as a black shadow.

I mean, take this image for example:

Pictures of little black and white stick figures being bulldozed is one thing, but a full color glossy of someone's brainpan is a whole other deal.

I've never seen any of the decapitation videos.

Civilians are getting capped off in Iraq at a rate of ten or fifteen a day. They just aren't being videotaped-- or there's no market for those videos in the States.

I try to keep it in perspective.

Posted by: Joshua at September 28, 2004 07:50 PM

I think it has something to do with what is recognizable. The pictures of the mass graves, whether they be from WWII or Iraq, the images of the dead are barely recognizable as human.

When I was at Ground Zero, standing at the foot of the pile of stories of debris that had been the towers, I couldn't make sense of what I was looking at. It was unrecognizable. A couple of blocks away was a building that was partly destroyed and you could see desks with computers still on them with the outer walls missing,you could see picture frames and chairs. It was much more disturbing because I could imagine someone sitting there, someone who had probably died.

And when I stood with the firemen as they pulled body parts out, it wasn't like it was a human. The firemen said it was much more difficult to find an intact body, especially with a face - like at wrecks or fires, because you could identify with the person. You had to deal with the fact that the body had been a living person.

I've actually watched the video of one beheading. I wanted to make myself see, and try to understand, this evil. What does someone have to be willing to do, to behead another human. I don't think I will ever understand.

Posted by: D at September 28, 2004 09:38 PM

when i saw my grandmas open casket, it was totaly different than pictures of masses of dead. i looked at teh face, and saw what had happened. saw that it was a person. i would much rather find parts of a person without the face, than an intact body. i thnk the face most represents the idea of an actuall person.

it is amazing how fragile people are, so muhc intellect contained in weak breakable bodies.

but, on a lighter note, in teh end i htink it all comes down to that whole clown thing. clowns are almost bearable until they try to look happy, then.....i shouldnt ahve to go there on a public place where poor little children may sutmble unpon it.

Posted by: kim at September 28, 2004 11:23 PM

I have seen some of those awful Faces of Death videos and there are black and white ones and then full color. I have to agree with Joshua, seeing bright red blood spatter is much more visually impactful than seeing black liquid spatter.

During the height of Apartheid and the unreported Taxi Wars in South Africa, 55 people a day were being murdered. The news barely even registered all the deaths, unless a white person got killed and then it was front page news.

The Taxi Wars were just what they sound like, rival taxi companies deciding its better to have no passengers than to share them, they would drive by taxi stands with AK's and kill a whole bunch of people waiting to go to work for no reason other than they weren't taking the other companies taxi.

And no, I was never directly shot at. In fact, I think I had a gun pointed at me once and the soldier was not close to me at all, like thirty or forty feet away.

Posted by: Johnny Huh at September 29, 2004 10:12 AM

u know. seeing dead people really isnt that scary
its the videos of people dieing that really creeps me out. i saw the video of the terrorist lookin guy sawing through that guys neck while he kindof gurgled a bit, then he kicked the head a few times and pop. once alive now dead. but the movie Faces of Death makes me yawn.

Posted by: spanish fly at September 22, 2005 03:40 PM

Well damn. Deasth is a part of life, i personally don't mind seeing it. I look at beheadings, gruesome and blooy deaths. Think about this though, who is one to define in our mind what is gruesome, bloody immoral or wrong?

(Tom, 16 years old from NC)

↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑

Posted by: Tom at October 3, 2005 11:45 AM
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