Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Graphic Story - Not Just Facts

Years ago I read Peter Jenkin's book Across China. He describes how a common phrase used at American dinner tables really made America seem heartless. The phrase was eat your dinner, there are many starving Chinese. Jenkins described how a political officer interpreted that saying to mean that mothers were wanting to eat to ensure that the Chinese would starve. Of course this sounds ridiculous to Americans, but there are times when a misunderstanding can not be set right.

The recent use of the photographs in the media to tell the story of the abuse of prisoners in Iraq could actually be a part of the degradation of the individuals who were photographed. Often times victims of rape do not want to let it be known that they were abused. In a sense our media might be adding to their shame.

Do we appear to be rubbing it in their faces when we put the photographs on television? (Even though that is not our intention.) What do the photographs tell that legal terms like "sexual harassment", "sexual assault" and "sexual abuse" could not carry by way of content of the crime? Rape is not a word that has been used to describe the abuse thus far, but the point is that there are a range of phrases that could be used in place of the photographs. The military press release did not inflame the rage when it was originally released. Just because the photographs exist does not mean they need to be published.

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