Thursday, June 08, 2006


I opt for the affirmative to the question – “Can art add to our understanding of Politics?” I have further argued, however, that art is ‘unreliable’, mediated, manipulated, censored, with omissions and enhancements that both deceive and “smuggle in ideas” to meet political objectives. A sceptical eye needs to be cast on the images citizens are offered by public relations driven governments and a media that is corporate, integrated and compliant with “the message”. This ‘unreliable’ mediation of information and its dissemination through news media is well illustrated in the film ‘Outfoxed’ This distortion has profound emotional effects on ‘public opinion’. Showing audiences the realities of modern warfare could have unpredictable and divergent outcomes. We are left with the discomforting question as to whether people are happier as they are, without the knowledge that could challenge their worldview. The words of Hermann Goering are, in my opinion, as relevant today as they were during World War II.

Concepts of ‘public decency’ can be manipulated for political/propaganda purposes whenever this suits governments. It is pertinent that the USA has suffered the loss of 2,600 military personnel in Iraq and does not allow the photographing of flagged-draped coffins, whilst Canada with four recent casualties in Afghanistan, made a decision in April 2006 not to allow their media to go to an air force base near Toronto to report on the arrival of the bodies of the Canadian soldiers. (Ljunggren: 2006) Australia, with one accidental death in Iraq flaunts the undraped coffin of Pte Kovco, as if to claim him as a hero. (Above)

Australians rarely see what the Australian military is doing in Afghanistan or Iraq unless a government minister is visiting the troops. The omission of really graphic images and detailed reporting is probably due to excessive secrecy. But Australians seem to have a willingness to believe the mediated message and the absence of images that could jolt public apathy, or ‘disengagement’.

The currently pseudo-religious dimensions of war glorification in countries like Australia and the orchestrated admiration of “fighting men and women” has a suppressive effect on dissent. The Australian government and media maintain an unhealthy silence on challenging questions about brutalisation and PTSD among ‘combat-hardened’ military personnel, which is subject to national denial. Even less concern is shown to the casualties we are unable to imagine or comprehend.

Finally, General Tommy Franks, US Central Command, 2003, signalled his disdain for the Geneva Conventions with his infamous statement “We don’t do body counts”. tracks the deaths of Iraqis, not recorded by US forces, have conservatively reached between 37,918 and 42,288 at the time of writing (25 May 2006).

I have left till last an image of a ‘Daisy-cutter’ bomb, the effects of which are explained in a BBC story that Australians were not exposed to. picture story

I have only referred in passing to the effects of Depleted Uranium (DU) weapons on civilians, particularly babies. The image below is the least confronting on this page assembled for David Bradbury’s film Blowin in the Wind also draws attention to this horror. Ross B. Mirkarimi, The Arms Control Research Centre, from his report: ‘The Environmental and Human Health Impacts of the Gulf Region with Special Reference to Iraq.’ May 1992, has documented the harm caused to Iraqi babies, as he says, "Unborn children of the region [are] being asked to pay the highest price, the integrity of their DNA."


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