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February 13, 2006

Comments

jamie

I wonder about the motivation of those taking the pictures at the time. Is it a kind of happy slapping writ large, an opportunity to expose criminiality or an opportunity to make money?

Will Davies

The answer to your question lies in the News of the World article:

All the while the callous cameraman delivers a stomach-churning commentary urging his mates on, cackling with laughter and screaming: "Oh yes! Oh yes! You're gonna get it. Yes, naughty little boys! You little f***ers, you little f***ers. DIE! Ha, ha!"

Aside from the heroic way in which the News of the World found the strength to report this stomach-churning incident in full - something even their gallant reporters could not do when it came to Mark Oaten's act that was "too disgusting to describe" - this has led to the bizarre situation where the military are trying to trace the cameraman as one of the perpetrators. This suggests that if the cameraman had not been there, the incident wouldn't have happened. Well certainly it would not have become known about, but that's hardly the objective is it? I suppose the question is 'if a tree falls down in a forest, and there's no sick bastard trying to capture it on his phone for massochistic pleasure, does it make a sound?'

Maybe the solution is actually quite close to home: we should introduce blanket CCTV into an area before we allow our troops anywhere near it, that way ensuring that they kill and maim in a legal fashion.

jamesb

Excellent post. In many ways the people - in this case those camera wielding folk in the army - are performing the job of the non-embedded journalists, although that's not their intention. They're giving us a reality which is relatively unpackaged and unmediated. However, I'm not sure that this media is entirely without representation as the way the act is framed and discussed and even taken up by different media means that it is still part of a media industry [and a far more complex one than existed even 12 years ago in the first Gulf War].

Moving away from naturalism but trying not to stray into relativism - I always thought Debray had something to offer by way of moving toward a materiality of media - the way things are 'mediated', rather than representative or misrepresentative of some pure event or form. Whilst I like this approach I'm not sure that it kinda makes you politically impotent and unable to make a moral stand or argument...

jamie

This brings a new meaning to participant observer.

The MoD have a new nightmare. For a long time the problem was how to control journalists' access to the battlefield. The argument ran that as journalists could broadcast faster from further than before this was going to become far more difficult. GW1 shows it wasn't really. Just give them lots of nice footage, acres of 24 hour news to fill and make sure you fight in a desert miles away from water. But the question today has become how to control the troops access to technology?

(Worth noting that the Screws were also unable to fully describe the sick act perpetrated by two premiership footballers last week.)

Will Davies

On Jamie's point, my impression was that the first Gulf War was heavily affected by rogue independent journalists, not least when the TV networks got footage of that huge burnt-out convoy of retreating Iraqi trucks. That, allegedly, was the turning point in persuading Bush Snr not to go after Saddam. By the time the conflicts in the Balkans came round, many journalists suddenly discovered that they weren't being issued with press passes for briefings, because they had not been sufficiently sympathetic in Iraq a few years earlier.

On James's point about naturalism, I wasn't suggesting that these pictures offer us an unmediated reality, only that they do not (yet) seem to engender any media reflexivity. We constantly hear about how Al Jazeera are doing x, Fox News are guilty of y, and Bin Laden's video is aiming to do z, but in this instance the content has been seized as something real. Clearly the whole issue is steeped in politics, but the politics of representation has been unarticulated.

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