Thursday, June 08, 2006

The image above is the least explicit in the collection. However, the soldiers’ facial expressions match spirit of the captions that accompany this and other photo images on the NFTU site. NFTU could have become a public relations disaster for the Bush administration. This site has been closed down through US government censorship. The site may disappear but the images are remembered. You will now read this message: “NTFU is now closed All memberships were allowed to expire naturally and then canceled. No credit cards will ever be billed by NTFU again. Please take a moment to stop by and chat with us here” 37

How effective is censorship? has been shut down, but continues its fully searchable internet presence. Chris Wilson, the site administrator was arrested on 8 October 2005 at Polk County, Florida, on one felony and hundreds of misdemeanour charges, “at his Lakeland apartment and [police] seized several computers, digital recording equipment, a nun's outfit, and a maid's fetish costume. Wilson, a former police officer, was released on $101,000 bail”. He has now announced that all but five of the minor charges have been dropped, 15 January 2006, and posted a new web site in defence of his own constitutional rights to free speech I have recorded my own distressed response to this story in a poem I have posted to my blog.

If the US government did not believe that images affected domestic and international public opinion they would not have suppressed Chris Wilson’s web site. Clearly, these images do have the potential to disgust Americans, outrage Muslims, jeopardise support for the war and endanger the lives of US military personnel and their allies. This last point goes to the heart of the intent of the Geneva Conventions. If one side in a conflict shows disrespect for their opponents’ dead they cannot hope that they will also be treated with respect. This was not the uppermost consideration in the minds of these mainly young soldiers.

Many people would prefer not to gaze on these images, as a form of self-protection from the emotionally upsetting outcomes this might produce. Shutting down, disengaging, refraining from looking can extend to not reading newspapers, not listening to the news on radio or viewing the war on television or even not voting in elections. Should we be ‘spared’ the confronting images of war? I believe that we have a responsibility to participate in democratic processes and make elected representatives who promulgate war take the honourable path to resignation.

What if we are being manipulated by the omission of confronting images, while we reside in calm and reassuring surroundings and endorse the actions of our governments who make war on ‘others’? What should be omitted? Should this include the flag-draped coffins of our government’s dead military employees? If a government has the right to prevent media exposure of ‘our’ dead they are trying to hide the realities of war from their constituency. The different attitudes of the governments of the USA and Canada to their respective dead military personnel is also of interest in the public relations context.
The coffins of American military personnel killed in Iraq
In contrast to this Australians were purposely shown the coffin of Private Jake Kovko, an Australian sniper who was allegedly killed “accidentally” by his own pistol in his barrack room. It is equally disturbing that the Australian government did not immediately send the body of Bosnian soldier Juso Sinanovic from Sarajevo to his family in Europe. The Australian government’s bungling of this episode exhibit insensitivity for the ‘other’ whilst bestowing excessive attention on “one of our own”. I believe that Australians should learn to be sensitive to the suffering of others.


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