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Rebuilding Iraq


Does TV focus too much on the iconic images of war?

The toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad yesterday is likely to become this war's iconic image, the symbol of the fall of Baghdad. TV stations dwelled on it, and replayed it again and again as some news anchors gushed over the event.

Meanwhile, gunfire and looting were occurring elsewhere in Baghdad, and wide-angle shots showed that relatively few Iraqis were at the statue.

Does TV focus too much on simple messages that sometimes obscure the more complex reality playing out beyond the camera's lens? Or was the toppling of the statue so important symbolically that the blanket coverage was justified?

In today's Globe
Did iconic images from Baghdad reveal more about the media than Iraq?
Tempered coverage of stunning scenes

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Well, TV hasn't mentioned this quote from Vice President Dick Cheney in 2000: "A commander in chief leads the military built by those who came before him." It would seem that when those try to 'blame Clinton' for all that's wrong, TV should call their bluff.

Phil, Worcester everything !

Bill, Waltham

I think it's important that they continue to show these symbols. What TV and newspapers are guilty of is giving way too much exposure to the anti-war/America "movement". Latest poll numbers show support for the war is upwards of 80% (and probably climbing) yet all we see in the media are the kumbyah singing, head in the sand, fools who thought (they STILL can't think this way, can they?) that asking Sadaam "pretty pretty please with sugar on top" would get him to step down. I think TV can't show enough of the Iraqui citizens praising Pres Bush and the troops for liberating them. But, then again, that too goes against what the anti-war movement was saying only a few days ago. I guess now they'll complain that their buddies in France and Germany are going to be shut out of the rebuilding. Do they actually think that the Iraqui people will view France and Germany with anything other than comtempt?

Diamond Dave, Taunton

It doesn't matter if the message is simple or complex, the media focuses on what will sell. If 80% of the population believes this war is about democracy and liberation, that's what the news will show. Why haven't we seen the hospitals in Basra, the bomb craters in Baghdad, or the thousands upon thousands of people who have died? Welcome to the Bush presidency, one that is lived in black or white, good or bad. Unfortunalty, life is lived in the gray...but gray doesn't sell.

C. , Boston

Television is a medium for short bursts of information. As such, it will seek out the symbolic events that define an event. That results in a simplistic "headline" perspective of world events which can often be manipulated by the people who actually make the news. As reasoning people who are concerned about what is really happening, it is incumbent upon us to dig further. Television sometimes offers in depth analysis. It, like other media, also offers self-glorifying palaver that they try to pass off as "in depth". That is why the most important thing a free society can do is to educate its citizens to see, read, and think in order to draw reasoned conclusions. It's an investment in self-preservation.

Mark, Maynard

TV gave no perspective, only breathless play by play. Nowhere, for instance were these two facts mentioned. President George W. Bush signed the Afghanistan Freedom Support Act into law last Dec. 4, authorizing $3.3 billion in economic, political, humanitarian and security assistance for Afghanistan over the next four years. The next month, Bush submitted the 2003 budget authorization to Congress but requested slightly less than that. As in: $0.00. Such perspective might explain the reservations of those who opposes this war on the grounds that it would make the world LESS safe, not more safe. Instead, TV, afraid of being labelled as "unpatriotic" gave us distant explosions, personal profiles, but, consiering their access, gave us no blood. War is, after all, about blood and sacrifice. And it seems that for people to truly make up their minds as to whether this is a good thing, they need to see it.

Steve, Melrose

The media definitly concentrates too much on iconic symbols. The pulling down of a statue does not mean the end of the struggle. If it were Hussein being physically pulled down we could say the end of fighting was near; but as it was an inanimate object located in a city we had overtaken, who is not to say Hussein has moved to another location and rebuilding his ediface piece by piece?

Claire, Salem

Yes, I do think that TV - and the media in general - latch on to certain phrases and images that simplify complex situations. However, if we successfully help develop a new government in Iraq, the toppling of the Saddam statue will be a very appropriate image to represent the historic event. I do have a problem with the repetitive use of the word "evil" to describe the Saddam regime. Granted, Saddam is evil, but I am afraid that people will become desensitized to the horror by using a word that is better used in comic books and Austin Powers movies.

Anne, Cambridge

Absolutely - such images play better to the media's vanity as it allows them to feel like they are creating history. The toppling of the statue was nice, to be sure, but it was little different than a photo op: carefully scripted (note how the Marines assisted on cue after the first hour of efforts by the Iraqis) and well accompanied by deep and touching descriptions and comparisons to other previous photo ops (Berlin Wall, etc.). Also, in all fairness, it is what much of the viewing public wants: quick and easy moments to define an otherwise complex and troubling situation. I would much rather learn more about what combat is still going on in Baghdad, as well as the efforts to find the POW's, but I guess I will have to make do with replays of Saddam falling down.

Debate The War, Support Our Troops, Salem

absolutely! we're looking for the "feel good" story to justify our we can all feel happy and proud and move on to the next thing. Where's all the news coverage of hospital wards full of people dying because there is no medicine, of the fighting still going on, of the people who's homes and families where destroyed, etc. I think the press is just giving us what we want to see because obviously this is what sells. Don't get me wrong, I didn't support us going to war but I am happy that we accomplished the first goal of removing Saddam from power so quickly. Still remains to be proven, but I think surely the Iraqi people will be better off without him. However, I think we should be humble in this victory and focus our energy now on getting the country under control, setting up the new government, and bringing Saddam to justice for the crimes he has committed. I hope we bring as much committment and determination to these next steps.

Mike, Quincy

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