Virginia Heffernan writes in the New York Times about the army’s camera crew that shot Saddam Hussein’s capture and subsequent medical examination. We have all seen it now, thanks to the networks looping it ad nauseam (like they do with just about anything else).
As a photo editor I know all too well that photography is about editing – cropping out, leaving behind something larger to focus on something specific; whether it is done in camera, while the action before us is enfolding or it is done after the event. Editing, no doubt, has its merits, especially when we want to convey something as succinctly as possible. But editing can also coerce us into not seeing the whole picture. It’s a double-edge sword and has to be handled responsibly.
So the questions are: What is the US Army NOT showing us? What has been left out of the loop? And, why are we watching the same tape again and again and again? What purpose does that serve? And, whom does it serve? Will we ever see the whole take?
While I and the rest of the world is grateful that Hussein is now in custody (let’s leave the politics behind that aside for a bit), there are just too many questions about this video that bug me. For starters, it is much too brief. The raid must have lasted at least 30 minutes. Yet, we see about 30 seconds of it. Is that just the public’s threshold or was that all was “released” by the censors?
Also, unless army was hauling rented HMI’s, I wonder how the “spider hole,” generally considered to be a dark place, was lit. The photographs appearing in the world’s papers have a color cast to them that is missing in the video. Again, were they corrected and “sanitized” for public consumption, after the video was shot?
There is some debate now in the US on media monopoly.The Left says there is one. The Right says the Left is smoking crack. The title of Heffernan’s article is “Camera Down the Hole, and the World Follows It.” It’s suggestive of the way the media has all of us “trained” to “follow.” We are going to be shown something and we will be made to believe it.
But if seeing is believing and we are made to watch something so specific and that too a number of times, with no apologies or explanation for its brevity, well, I do have to wonder – are we subtly being told to toe the line and accept a certain agenda without thought or debate? I am concerned that the media will be equated to base propaganda and nothing more.