Past Opinion Articles

Article for the week of 4/12/07

A Note from the Editor in Chief:

War: That’s not always what Censorship’s for
By, Paul Mann (Editor and Lord of Puns)

When most people think about War, a myriad of mixed feelings often results. There are those that patriotically display the flag in every way possible, those who think war leads only to suffering, some that think it’s a necessary evil, some that are patriotic at heart, those that could care less and many other opinions too many to list. Often, the biggest casualty comes in the form of media coverage. Our government, be it wise or not, decides that war should not receive that much coverage other than the kind that glorifies our nation’s participation in it. In older wars we accepted the fact that our boys were over “there” to fight for freedom and we did not see much, other than the occasional moving shot that slipped to the presses. Yet, as of the Vietnam War, we began to seek more when we saw that things weren’t quite so rosy and this opened up the public’s eye to the fact that things could become very ugly in conflict. Now, it is more common to see the blood and gore, but if those higher up had the chance, we’d still be only seeing what the big shots wanted us to see.
The question in today’s era seems to be where the line should be drawn when it comes to censorship and war. If we let Uncle Sam do the decision making, we might still be watching propaganda films which only highlighted the brave soldiers charging a frightened enemy, who was bad for any number of reasons. Then again, if Geraldo Rivera had his way, we’d be having tea with the enemy while we discussed how best to move against them. So, this must mean that some sort of balance or compromise must be reached. We must be able to give war fair coverage, but we cannot cause undo harm to our troops waiting on the battlefield. We cannot let the enemy know we are coming, but we must not allow our liberties to be surrendered because of paranoia. Thankfully or perhaps not so, we might be able to reach a conclusion due to the current fiasco that seems to be dragging on longer than our current commander in chief intended.
We certainly have an excellent example of how to test war and censorship with America’s involvement for the past four years in Iraq. Journalists have already been told what to print, what to broadcast, what pictures they can show, what they can reveal about terrorists and how it’s evil to expose the screw ups. Our only choice has been to try and use the freedom of information act. This can be a slow process that can be held up until the information is no longer newsworthy. So, those in the media must give into the government, find an alternative source or play the waiting game. Of course, those that might get the chance to be with troops or come across information leaked online doesn’t hurt the news gathering process. We just need to remember to make sure the information can be backed up.
Since a photo or video may be at least worth a thousand words, it seems appropriate to address what we should or should not censor there first. I personally believe that there should be little to no limits or at least the editors of a publication need to be able to decide what visual material they can choose to show. We should consider the feelings of those involved, but we cannot hold back each and every time someone might be the least bit offended. Some times in order to make a message stick we need to fully understand what is really going on. Yes, we need to avoid oversaturization, but this can easily be taken care of by making the story fresh instead of repeating what the other news presenter did/said. Sure, it’s disgusting to see any body hanging from a bridge or to show people leaping out a building, yet we cannot hide from reality forever. The balance again must occur and this will not happen if someone always hesitates.
With written word we can be a bit more careful because we are able to think more about what journalists give to the people. Yet, we cannot be too careful here either because a dumbed down account is about as good as one not given at all. This is where more available information will most come in handy. Yes, there is such a thing as overkill in any area, but the more you have to sift through when reading, the more informed and skeptical you can be about a subject. This is why the internet is such a blessing, a cursed blessing at times, but with so many people connected, we can compare and put together an eventual masterwork of events. If we can help educate the public to be as discerning as possible then we can eliminate the annoying pointing of fingers syndrome that only interrupts the process. No wonder the talking head is such a common annoyance.
We cannot be uncaring, but we cannot give up our rights as Americans. The moment we begin to sacrifice even the smallest part of one of our freedoms, the moment we are on a slope often too slippery to go back up. Soldiers once fought for our right to speak out against governments that we did not agree with and if we really want to honor those that died we must remember their sacrifices as much as those of today. Whether or not you look upon the Iraq conflict positively (increasingly less these days) or negatively, it is your right to feel a certain way. It is also your right to know where our money is being spent, why and what for are the people of the nation dying and if something needs to be corrected. A possibly wise sage once said that it is easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission. Maybe it is not only easy, but better.
When all is said and done, we must make sure that what is said is all that needs to be told. Censorship is a dirty word to many, but I think with enough practice we can better determine how and if it is warranted. We cannot hide the truth from the people if we are act as the democracy we so openly share. If we leave it up to those in charge of media to make the decision then the rest will take care of itself. Checks and balances will expose those that step over the line in order to maintain peace. The internet will provide us with alternatives to make more informed decisions. These things combined show that war does not mean that censorship is always the best answer.

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