Here is an interesting, though not really new, notion: Mainstream journalism exists to maintain the status quo. And graphic images of war are allowed to be printed and broadcast precisely because at the end of the viewing, the status quo will likely be maintained. Here is what photography blogger Hugh McCabe in the blog Traces of the Real says, quoting art critic and writer John Berger:
Shocking images [of war]… had only recently become acceptable in American newspapers and (John) Berger recounts two commonly cited reasons for this. One is that the public are demanding to know the truth of war and the newspapers are giving them what they want. The second is that the public have steadily become immune to images of horror and the newspapers are competing to show ever more horrific images in order to gain their attention. Berger rejects both of these, and goes on to suggest that such images are now acceptable to the mainstream media because they are clearly failing to have their intended effect. By this he means that they are not moving the public to seriously question, challenge or threaten the political establishment that is pursuing the war. If they did, then the media would not be carrying them.
“There are many uses of the innumerable opportunities that a modern life supplies for regarding—at a distance, through the medium of photography—other people’s pain. Photographs of an atrocity may give rise to opposing responses: a call for peace; a cry for revenge; or simply the bemused awareness, continually restocked by photographic information, that terrible things happen.”
Susan Sontag, Looking at war (December 9, 2002)
Are mainstream images of war precisely handpicked (by editors, publishers, etc.) to evoke this abiguity, rather than the generally accepted (though challenged) notion of war as evil and inhumane?
The Sunday Times also used Philip Blenkinsop's photos
British journalist Andrew Marshall, who wrote the Time Magazine cover story, also came out with an article on the New People’s Army in the Philippines in the Sunday Times UK. He basically said the same things he said in Time: that the NPAs were supposedly fighting for a dead ideology and poverty was fuelling the rebellion much more than ideology (What do they mean by ideology, by the way?). As most accounts go, Marshall’s impressionistic portrait of the revolutionary struggle in the Philippines leaves so much more to be desired. At least, though, he brought much less bias than most journalists do when doing stories about communist insurgencies.
Read the story here.
Currently showing in ABS-CBN-2 TV Channel in the Philippines is a soap opera titled “Minsan Lang Kita Iibigin” (“I’ll Love You Only Once”) about, well, all the usual dramatic themes of love and betrayal. To quote Wikipedia:
This is a story of two opposing worlds…two opposing families, bounded by lies, betrayals and shocking secrets. Alexander Del Tierro (Coco Martin) was born into a family with a strong military background, while Javier (Coco Martin) was raised in the mountain based community of the rebels. Soon after graduation from the military academy, and bent on proving himself to his stern grandfather, Alexander accepts deployment in the territory of the rebels. In one battle, Alexander and Javier come face to face in a life changing encounter. Are they long lost brothers or are they twins? Alexander and Javier enter into a pact, they decide to keep their meeting a secret and they soon embark on an investigation tracing their roots in pursuit of the truth of their real identities. They even switch places to get to know each other’s personal lives with the families they grew up in. But as they push much deeper into unfamiliar territory, the line between family and duty begins to blur. The truth that they wanted to realize becomes their worst nightmare, as it threatens to ruin everyone and everything that is important in their lives. Eventually, Alexander and Javier and their families will find themselves at the crossfire. Left with difficult choices, fulfillment of duty to the country or protection of ones family?
“Kailangan Kita” (“I Need You,” 2002) is one of those usual love stories in Filipino films about disparate people who fall in love in the most inopportune time and place. Filipino actress Claudine Barretto, at the height of her popularity, plays a rebel-coddling barrio lass (Filipino matinee idol Jericho Rosales plays the communist rebel) and Aga Muhlach a Filipino-American cook who, it turns out, is son to a former rebel himself.
Probably in real life as much as in the movies, actress Cameron Diaz cluelessly got herself embroiled in controversy after been photographed in the ancient city of Macchu Picchu carrying a Mao Zedong bag with the slogan “Serve the People” emblazoned on it. Conservative Peruvians who hated the Shining Path movement publicly expressed their resentment at Diaz for wearing the bag. She henceforth apologized, apparently not knowing what the apology was for.
Women’s magazine Marie Clare featured a photo story from the same set of photos of Philip Blenkinsop, this time focusing on the women guerrillas. Hat tip to the Guerilla Busfare blog for this. Click on the the pages below to magnify.
A Hollywood film about an enterprising but desperate TV morning show executive producer (played by Rachel MacAdams), struggling with her job, managing a washed-out but proud broadcast journalist (played by Harrison Ford)as well as her love life mentions something about a “report on communist rebels in the Philippines.” What appears to be either a clipping or a poster looks like it says “Free Sison.”
Watch out for the scene in 44:40. The entire movie can be watched here.