The Power of the Picture

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


If a picture can speak 1,000 words, what affect could 52 photographs of Osama bin Laden's death play on the war, and even on the world?


Judicial Watch has recently filed a Freedom of Information act lawsuit to try to grant the public access to the photographs taken after the assassination of bin Laden. Government officials fear that the release of these photographs will instigate a vicious counterattack by anti-American groups and terrorists, such as the Taliban. When looking at this situation, one cannot help but compare this situation to Saddam Hussein's execution in December 2006 and the video leaked capturing his hanging. This unauthorized video shot from a mobile phone created a huge stir across the world surrounding the conduct of execution. Yet, no extreme violent outbursts have been linked back to his hanging.

Is it possible that the pictures of Osama would have a much different effect on its viewers than the video of Saddam? With this in mind, the public must wonder what the American government is hiding in these pictures. It is claimed they wish to protect the identities of the soldiers who accomplished this mission and to protect American military strategies from leaking to enemies. If these pictures are released to the public, newspapers will need to decide whether or not they want to publish them, and possibly put lives in danger.

When dealing with powerful images, such as these, each media outlet needs to make a decision on where it stands. Is it okay to publish picture of the death of a notorious criminal or are photographs capturing any death pushing the ethical boundaries for any publication? Powerful images may make an event more believable, helps sell stories and thus, more papers. Photographic or video proof help the credibility of any story and help readers understand that an event actually happened. Yet, when unveiling powerful images about death, violence, starvation, or any number of disturbing events that take place every day across the world, will journalists choose to show images simply because the public demands them and because they want to boost sales this month? Or will they choose to shield the eyes of the public and hope the truth conveys itself well enough through their writing?

2 comments:

RCastenson September 27, 2011 at 9:30 PM  

I personally don't see a problem with letting people see pictures of the death of Osama.The public viewing those images aren't not going to be put in danger or harm. I don't see much riot about this because of all the videos of Saddam on YouTube of him hanging. Nothing really came out of the videos except satisfaction of him being dead. The public needs to see the pictures of reality and what is happening around them.

Ben Rodgers September 28, 2011 at 7:43 AM  

I agree with the statement that showing pictures or videos can make an even more credible. There is also another good point brought up in this about whether or not they should show images of violence and death to boost sales. Ethically this does not seem write to me, however I do know that is what helps sell the media sometimes today. This is a sketchy subject that I'm sure will be debated about for a while.

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