I saw a BBC report the other day about an insurgent’s hospital in Syria (Homs I think). The newsreader preceded the report with a warning that the following contained images of ‘death and suffering’- and it was quite graphic, with a small boy, the son of a wounded man, dying of his injuries, another child with a massive head-wound- all injured by Assad’s airforce bombing the city. It struck me how such images could have equally been of Bagdhad or Kabul when assaulted by the attacks of the US air force, and how, images of civilians coping with those attacks were never really shown, even though they were as desparate, bloody and tragic- pitifully under-equipped and staffed inpromptu field hospitals trying to cope with horrific casualties. The bias and the propaganda value was obvious, since Syria is the next military target for western economic interests, but I was also reminded of a report a while ago about the mass slaughter of dolphins (In the Faroe Islands or Taiji, I think) where the BBC decided to pixelate the footage so as not to ‘distress’ their viewers. The issue here is just how far the mainstream media will go to censor images to protect the sensibilities of the masses, where showing violence, or the results of violence is restricted, and not just to avoid ‘putting people off their tea’, nor to protect their innocence-I think such imagery selectively used to manipulate public opinion. This has a long tradition, from the birth of the moving image and the advent of press photography- the policy of not showing British dead during the First World War, for instance, lest it undermine morale at home. What bothers me, and always has done, is the media’s supposedly paternal censorship of violence- whether commited in the name of ’our nation’ or by a supposed enemy, or by anyone in fact, seems to me to be both a method of infantilising people in a ‘nanny knows best’ kind of a way, and a way of preserving the use of violent images for maximum impact when it suits authority –for instance the selective use of footage from protests and riots, with protesters and not cops, as the antagonists – and also keeping people from the sordid truth about violence generally, that is not glamourous, exciting or ‘fun’, whereas this is the constant message projected by the entertainment industry- be it movies, TV or gaming (complete with gory misrepresentations of human anatomy) .
Real violence is without exception squalid, shameful, de-humanising ,revolting, barbaric and banal (and I’m no pacifist). This in turn has lead to a commercial faux-subculture of graphic violence, mainly in films and games, where violence is employed for the purposes of entertainment- the more extreme, the more cruel, the more elaborate, the more ‘entertaining’; so called ‘torture porn’ films and ‘shoot-em up’ games. All of which is a form of dehumanising violence in itself, inuring people to actual destruction and maiming of human beings. Killing without consequence, treating people as objects and killing and maiming without any moral aim, killing and maiming where there is no smell, no piss and shit, no indecent animal-like squealing from the victim…Both sides of this artificial state of unreality fundamentally serve to obscure real-world violence, the violence that underpins power, the obscene violence that is kept in reserve to put us in our place when it is needed, almost a sacred obscenity- the violence that is ultimately the monopolised by the state to achieve its political, economic and social ends.
THE RICH ARE OUR MISFORTUNE.