Sontag on the Abu Ghraib Pictures
In the comments section of my prior post there is supposed to be a link to a NYT Magazine article. The article in question is a piece by Susan Sontag on the Abu Ghraib pictures. Normally, Sontag is too over the top for me, but this piece is about right. What's most interesting is her discussion of the way in which digital technology and the net has changed the kinds of things soldiers can do. They are, as she says, as much tourists as warriors. Combined with a culture of "shamelessness" and an internet to spread them and the green light from above, you get these pictures. And they won't go away. There will be more of them, speaking the reality of what's happening there.
This seems a particularly appropriate example of where Orwell got it so wrong. Rather than technology leading to the centralization and monopolization of information, particularly during war, it has led to the precise opposite. Technology has been democratized by being so cheap, and as a result, information flows from thousands and millions of points. The role of blogs in circumventing the major media, for both the left and the right, is one example, and the Abu Ghraib pictures are another. Though Sontag doesn't go quite this far, one way to view this whole sequence of events is fairly positive - the truth is coming out and the pressure of those pictures on our involvement there cannot be put back in the tube. Technology will continue to put limits on what the state can do and will continue to force open that which has been closed. The pictures of Saddam's torture have long existed, and now it's "our" turn.
Maybe next we'll see what goes on inside prisons in the US too. They could use some sunlight.
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Brian Kelly Lind - 5/24/2004
Sorry about that post Steve, got all confused with my cutting and pasting!!