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From the NY Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/26/world/middleeast/26censor.html?hp

The issue is: In a real democracy, when should military and political censorship override First Amendment rights, if ever? It's been odd to me that I have seen more graphic images from a war that happened 58 years ago, than from a war that's been going on for more than 58 months in the present time.

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quote “Mr. Miller’s complete lack of respect to these marines, their friends, and families is shameful,” Captain Vickers said. “How do we explain to their children or families these disturbing pictures just days after it happened?”

"Mr Miller's complete lack of respect" is a value judgement made by Captain Vickers, who I'm certain would have difficulty explaining to children and relatives the worth of the sacrifice made by the dead soldiers. I'm happy for the good Captain to feel ashamed, I don't believe it is the fact of the published photos he should be feeling ashamed about.

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IMHO, in an asymmetrical conflict, there's no need to endanger even marines for such cheap political points.

Even if it would make anti-war protesting easier, if all gore and splatter would be openly on display on every media. Social porn is for mast*rb*t*rs, and its connections to legitimate forms of political expression and free speech are not as clear cut as political activists are trying to claim, on all sides of the aisle.

Thankfully right to privacy and basic human dignity is sometimes respected, even if media is increasingly becoming the most powerful source of power, as it can manipulate public perspectives at its will. For its own the financial gain, mostly.

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The Army hasn't prevented the publication of the photo - it has, however managed the consequences.

To expect the surviving unit members to do a good job of protecting and helping the embedded reporter, when they are grieving and the images do nothing to allay that grief (in fact, quite the reverse), when the knowledge of the sale of the images benefits only the reporter, the media owner and the "social masturbators" (nice one SSgt Viljuri) - the reporter is far safer out of the country.

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I'm with Abbott. Don't read the article, let your bias lead you where it will, damn the facts!

Obviously there is plenty of anti-American bias on this forum. If you educate yourself concerning the source of that article you would understand. The New York Times and the word "facts" is laughable when used in the same sentence. However not living here I do understand why you are unaware of that, if you were here I doubt if it would take long for you to understand.

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So, Abbott, are you just going to hijack this thread with your rail about the NYT's political leanings? Can you make any comment of substance concerning my question regarding the media's right (if not obligation) to report and record the facts of this particular conflict?

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Could one of the supporters of censorship explain how publishing pictures of the dead soldiers would help the enemy, whoever that is? Do we think the only way the people of Iraq or Afghanistan find out about American casualties is by checking the US papers? The killing is happening right in front of them in broad daylight. There's no secrecy about it. It appears to me that the only point of the censorship of these pictures, just like the flag-draped coffins, is to keep US citizens from seeing them. Pictures like that might cause people to begin thinking about why these deaths keep happening. In turn that might cause people to begin holding someone responsible.

So maybe the censorship actually is for keeping information about casualties from the enemy of the war leaders. As it turns out the enemy in this war has been us all along. :mad:

That Abbott, what a kidder, throwing a tantrum against the very newspaper that provides William Kristol a soapbox. :rolleyes::rolleyes:

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Ah Elmar, don't sweat it. Abbott is a good guy, but he wouldn't recognize responsible journalism if you hit him with it over the head, you know, the Sunday edition of the NYT advertising inserts included.

In fact, most any one with even a vague understanding of journalism will of course say NYT is one of the best newspapers in the world. Their journalistic standards are second to none, and their reporters and editors are the top of the trade. And if they have a liberal slant, well, talking to both side of an issue tends to make a person open-minded. NYT can be a bit slow to report from time to time, but the depth of their coverage is outstanding.

As for the photog, the embed rules applying here were clear:

- No publishing images of identifiable US dead

- No publishing images useful to the enemy

The Marines may not like it, but the photog was within those limits. The families of the dead had been informed. The casualties numbers had been made public, as had how the insurgents had inflicted the casualties.

But, the Marine Public Affairs people being public affairs people, are weaseling - something Marines aren't supposed to do, by the way. Now, according to them, the mere publication of images of dead US soldiers is aiding and abetting the enemy, providing him "after-battle intelligence."

That is true, of course, if the Marines' enemy is undermined public opinion in the US. Then, of course, seeing as the the public have been insulated from images of what wars do to the soldiers the US public sends places, the the public might just be shocked if they actually saw a picture of dead US soldier. Because, after all, pretty much to this point anything like that has been censored.

As has been routinely censored:

- Images of US soldier coffins

- Images of wounded US soldiers, w/o that soldier's permission (and try to get it when the photog stays in the combat zone and the soldier is recovering in Germany)

- Memorial services for dead US soldiers

What's more, if a photog takes pictures of the following stuff, it may not be illegal, but the military by and large will retaliate by kicking him out of the unit and hopefully out of theater:

- Pictures of really badly wounded Iraqis/Afghans, especially kids, if the US did it.

- Pictures of US military errors, like bombs missing, innocents lit up, etc. (Not to criticise the US military, they are pretty careful, far more than the insurgents, but they're still human)

- Pictures of US military non-professionalism, like baiting/making fun of the locals

I could go on, but that's enough to give a general idea. Point is, as far as the bulk of the military decision-makers are concerned, especially those deciding about the press, any negative reporting is by definition hostile, anti-mission, and pretty much traitorous to the unit with which the journo embeds.

This is what the military thinks. Reality appears to be quite different, which is not suprising, considering how little most even senior military officers know about the functioning of a free press. And that is why, sometimes, the military breaks its own rules when it bumps into an unanticipated aspect of a free press.

The Marine flak that got the crap job of commenting to the NYT to the article, a mere Captain (which gives you some idea of how scared the Marines are of the NYT, they couldn't even get a field grade never mind a general brave enough to comment to the NYT on the record...cowards!), pretty much summed it up when he said:

“Mr. Miller’s (my note: that's the phographer) complete lack of respect to these marines, their friends, and families is shameful,” Captain Vickers said. “How do we explain to their children or families these disturbing pictures just days after it happened?”

The standard reporter answer to Captain Vickers is, of course: It ain't the friggen' reporter's job to explain to relatives of dead Marines, how come their son or daughter died in the Corps. That is the Marines' job. Not the reporter's. Marines are not supposed to shirk responsibility, or whine when the job gets tough. They are, after all, Marines.

The reporter's job is to report. People die in wars, and images of US dead soldiers will in fact bring home to the US public that a war in progress is not just headlines or some story buried on page 24, there really are people dying there.

Even if, and really it's much less, half of the people likely to see those pictures would say "I didn't need to see that", the other half would. Deny that other half what the photographer wanted to show them, and you better have a reason good enough to convince that other half it was a good idea. Otherwise, they are going to get mad at you for deciding for them what they need and do not need to see.

Nor does the military deciding what needs to be published work well, long term, with an independant media itself. Again, certainly, the military is within its rights to censor and manipulate the images and the stories as much as it can. They have a war to fight after all.

But if the military does it too much, then the reporters are going to start saying "Hey, the military isn't letting me report, all they want is a cheerleader." And any reporter worth his salt is going to say about two second later "Well they can take their cheerleader job and put it where the sun don't shine - they may think lying to the general public is just dandy, but that ain't my profession."

This is an important reason why so few reporters are with the troops these days, and proximately why so much of the general public has such a bad understanding of the wars and - among other things - the sacrifices the military is making. The military brought it on themselves. They decided they could do the media's job, better than the media.

Having worked on both sides of the fence, I think I can safely say that in my personal opinion, that would be a dangerous assumption for the great majority of service personnel.

That assumption that the military somehow knows the media's job better than the media, pretty much, is what is happening here with these dead soldier photographs. The Marines in their own wisdom or perhaps because the Navy or somewhere higher up on in the executive branch told them so, have decided that Marine-controlled reporting is preferable to independant reporting.

It is far less clear, however, whether that is a war-winning strategy.

Muzzle the press, limit the public's view, and keep feeding them press statements that reality contradicts, or even that the independant press cannot verify, and the military in a democratic society can get into some real problems. What if they say they won, and the war goe son? What if they say a province is safe, and then a bunch of bombs go off? What if they say the local army they're training are really great guys, and then when there's a fight the local hires disappear? What if they say the locals really appreciate the Marines/Army/peacekeepers/whatever in country, yet every time two of those locals talk to reporters, the locals say "For God's sake, make them leave." What if the military says the local government is making great strides towards normalcy and efficiency, when that very government is at war with itself, and sinfully corrupt to boot?

The truth is hard enough to get at. A doctored version of the truth, in the face of an independant media, usually does not last long, and if the military was doing the doctoring and the general public was paying the bills, then guess what? The general public is going to turn on the military.

All of this is obvious to pretty much any one with a rudimentary understanding of how information flows and how the media, in all its variety, influences those flows. But clearly, it is not obvious at all to at least some Marine officers in positions of responsibility.

True, if the military did the reporting job professionally, then there would be no need for media embeds. If the military told the truth, good and bad, didn't embellish it, didn't spin it, let people make their own conclusions about the facts, rather than controlling which facts got out and which were supressed, then things would be easy. The military would say "This happened" and every one would believe them, and reporters could stick to their cocktail parties.

But just as one probably wouldn't want a reporter calling in artillery fire or inspecting latrines or (worst of all) writing officer efficiency reports, militaries are just not good at understanding how manipulating the information flow can blow up in your face. It is possible, of course, but it is not easy and it is not an unskilled task. You have to know what you are doing, and the people helping you, they have to know the information game the same way as you, and just as well.

So, when militaries try and be editors - and that is precisely what is happening here, the Marine Corps has decided it can act as a professional photo editor - this leads, sometimes, to ludicrous situations.

Here you have a photographer, walking with the infantry, a combat veteran by the Marines' own standards, risking his life voluntarily almost for sure for far less than even Marine privates (trust me on this), he can't shoot back, he has no Marine buddies to take care of him, and when that photographer after taking those risks takes a picture showing what war is like, and tries to show it to the taxpayers, a Marine general named Kelly way up the totem pole tells that photographer that he the general, knows better than the photographer, what the public needs to see. It comes down to that. General Kelly somehow is supposed to know better than photographer Martin what is a good war photograph.

Pretty reasonable, if General Kelly is willing to take the photographer's advice on how to fight the war. But somehow I doubt he is.

As it works out, when you look at it, General Kelly and the Marine Corps have not so much credibility. Most of them weren't on the ground, none of them took the photographs, and it's pretty much a slam dunk that none of them have more than a vague idea about professional journalism. And of course they are very interested in winning the war, and could just about care less about accurate reporting.

The photographer, on the other hand, was on the ground, was doing the job he was being paid to do, had risked his life to get some good shots, and from a professional POV could care less who wins the war. His mission was to take some war pix; he did exactly that.

In the court of public opinion, who has the credibility? The cameraman doing his job and risking his life in the process, or the soldiers trying to play journalist?

It is precisely because of this kind of contrast, that editors usually shy away from second-guessing the guy on the ground, when the reporter says, essentially, "This is what I saw, and I think if other people saw it they would understand too." You second-guess a guy like that, who has seen what you have not, you're setting yourself up to look like an idiot.

Well, as a result of that double standard General Kelly now has his name in the NYT. Sure, he'll tell his buddies he could care less what a liberal rag like the Times writes about him. But it's there in black and white, General Kelly didn't have the balls to talk to the Times on the record. That doesn't look so good. And an awful lot of citzens - the dangerous kind that vote and contribute to campaigns and write their congressmen, these are voters you really don't want pissed off at you - read the NYT, whether General Kelly likes it or not.

So, while he talks to his soldiers about how they are warriors and how the public doesn't appreciate them, there is in my opinion a good chance more than a few taxpayers will decide General Kelly is a fool, and his beloved Marine Corps ain't acting too bright either.

If the goal was US hearts and minds, me, I'd wouldn't chalk this one up in the "win" column. It would have been better to let the phographer do his job, and keep stuff like this out of the NYT.

Bet Kelly never makes Joint Chief's.

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Pretty rich to claim anything about doctored images as (liberal) western media is filled with them, for example AFP is very famous to use every possible Pallywood et al produced image available to further its revenues.

The truth is, nobody is interested what some cocky journalist does or thinks. Morally, they are acting in a similar role as those who scavenged the dead on battlefields of the past.

Better send those vultures home, an overblown feeling of baseless self-importance is not helping these fellas at all. These picture takers or text spellers are not intellectuals, they are not scientists, they are not artists, they are just yellow liquid, which fills our heads and prevents us from thinking clearly.

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I'd be interested in Abbots identification of which statments in the article are not facts.

It's very important to identify opinion and treat it as such.

for example is it a fact that this chap Miller was given a letter from a US General baring him from any area controlled by US Marines?

Is it a fact that there are very few images (half a dozen is the nubmer given) of dead US soldiers? Is it a fact that over 4000 US servicement have been killed? Is it a fact that several journalists have been "de-embeded" after publishing photos someone in the US military didn't like?

Iis it a fact that

Mr. Miller provided our enemy with an after-action report on the effectiveness of their attack and on the response procedures of U.S. and Iraqi forces,

(attributed to Lt. Col. Chris Hughes, a Marine spokesman) - did the Lt Col say this, and is it true?

Abbot you're good at slining stuff far and wide....how about identifying the actual target for the rest of us poor dupes?

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So, Abbott, are you just going to hijack this thread with your rail about the NYT's political leanings?

There is no hijack Gunner, to have a quality discussion the bias the article was written and edited with has to be considered. The New York Times is well known for it's abundance of prejudice and some folks who live overseas may not be aware of that fact.

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Your "fact" that the NYT is prejudiced merely shows that you yourself are prejudiced*.

Judging whether something is prejudiced or not is by definition a matter of opinion - even if the authors admit to prejudice that's still only their opinion!

That said, how is this alleged prejudice evident in this article?

* - IMO of course

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I submit that bias is not the same as inaccuracy. Bias is of course in the eye of the beholder, but facts are facts. They may not always be comfortable facts though.

For the record, here in good old Australia, we have an even tighter rein on the media in terms of their access to defence stories. Almost nothing gets out that the miltary-political axis doesn't want said.

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Pretty rich to claim anything about doctored images as (liberal) western media is filled with them, for example AFP is very famous to use every possible Pallywood et al produced image available to further its revenues.

The truth is, nobody is interested what some cocky journalist does or thinks. Morally, they are acting in a similar role as those who scavenged the dead on battlefields of the past.

Better send those vultures home, an overblown feeling of baseless self-importance is not helping these fellas at all. These picture takers or text spellers are not intellectuals, they are not scientists, they are not artists, they are just yellow liquid, which fills our heads and prevents us from thinking clearly.

Sgt,

Some of them are pretty scummy, sure. But most of them are people doing a job. Some of them do their job pretty well. Google the name Elizabeth Rubin. Yes she works for the NYT, but she also has worked in Central Asia for close to a decade, she has spent more time in combat zones than most US staff sergeants, and a woman like that has several huge advantages over let's say a staff sergeant saying "Well, I've been there on the ground, them reporters don't know crap."

- She to do her job must talk to Afghans, regularly

- When she talks to Afghans, she does not nor will she ever have firepower superiority

- Her job, i.e., what she is paid to do, is to provide accurate information giving due attention to both sides of a question. Not win the war, or protect her buddies, or keep the Army's reputation intact, or insulate the general public from unpleasant information. Her job is to look and report the truth as best she sees it.

You are making the same mistake the Marines did. You are assuming that the public trusts the military more than the media. You are saying that inherently, the POV of some person in a uniform will always be accepted by the public as more reliable than than that of a person who's job it is to report information as accurately as possible. And so, by your logic, no one could or should be images obtained by a reporter.

You are saying, the only valid news is the news which the military sees fit to print. And when the news is unpleasant, it sure looks like it to me, you are blaming the messenger.

After all, if the Marines don't like talking to relatives of Marines killed by roadside bombs, they could do lots of things. They could just stop driving on the friggen' road. They could tell their civilian leaders "Hey, this is a no-win situation you've stuck us in." They could learn Arabic or Pashto, and maybe get an honest local take on what the locals think of foreign troops in their country. They could tell the public, honestly, "You know, this policy of ours, well, the one you have us following, it's getting Marines killed and if we keep it it up, it's going to get more Marines killed and frankly that's about all it's going to do."

But they don't. The hew to a wonderful double standard that runs throughout most of the professional military, to wit: "I am a soldier and I take orders and don't question them, I don't get paid to think. But if some one questions my opinion, especially if my opinion or views are questioned by a person whose job it is to seek out the truth, well people like that are traitors, and what's more, I know better than they how to do that job. My military opinion is the only one the public should have access to. I know best, because I wear a uniform. Any one who contradicts me is wrong, because they're not me."

It's a nice attitude, and as long as the soldiers talk only among themselves they can pretend it's a valid attitude for quite along time. But fail to win a war, fast, and the people paying the bills are going to ask questions.

If you have locked out the media, and take over the reporting job yourself, you have no one but yourself to blame for the whirlwind you will inevitably reap.

Abbott,

Sorry about all the words.]

Still, I kinda wonder about your logic there big guy. After all, if I am some liberal slime who doesn't know the deal because he's overseas and out of touch, then maybe my calling you a "good guy" is bad reporting. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe you are actually really biased, you know, a real know-nothing kind of goon, but me being the fool that I supposedly am, I've just got the Abbott story all wrong.

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Abbott, please describe for us how this article displays the bias of the NYT. Explain the bias and precisely where the article promulgates it. I'm curious to see your definition of the truth as it applies to the topic of the NYT article. Also, were you to write an article on the topic of photography of war dead and the war in Iraq for the NYT, what salient points would you make?

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Abbott,

Sorry about all the words.]

No problem Steve, I stopped reading your long-winded posts about a year or so ago when it became apparent that like the New York Times (and Dorosh) the gist of your posts was always the same. In all honesty I do consider you to be a good guy, extremely convinced of you're own righteousness and superiority but that is easy to overlook when one is aware that we all have weaknesses and room for improvement. You're getting nasty over the fact that I felt bringing the extreme and documented bias of the NYT to light for some who may not be aware of that fact will be over-looked and forgiven.

Best wishes,

Nick

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