Tuesday, September 2, 2008
THE IMAGES THAT ENTER COLLECTIVE MEMORY
(Images here are not meant to challenge any ownership or copyrights and are intended solely as fair use.)
Media and culture shape perceptions. There are heroic images caught on camera, and there are tragic ones. Heroic images remind us of why we fight, or go to war, the tragic images remind us of the cost. Some people, rightly or wrongly, have argued that modern wars are now fought on the domestic front by media presentation of the war, the Government’s control of images produced by the war, and the perceptions that arise from the release of those images.
Popular culture does not create the images, but perceptions are planted and grown by seeing the images. There are moments in history that are not related to war or tragic event that are caught on film, and they are generally awe striking. But while they are rightly remembered, it is the photos that strike at the heart of our discontent and fears that change the world.
When the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, it was almost surely fueled by the photographs that captured the emotional abuse and humiliation. When photos came back from Vietnam of a monk burning in protest and the wife of the South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem calling it a sort of human barbecue, Americans were shocked, and horrified.
Popular culture is woven from many strands, images that burn into our collective memory are one strand of that tapestry.