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Friday, September 09, 2005


Ron Franscell

From http://underthenews.blogspot.com ...

Here we are -- again -- at the intersection of Death and Government, a busy crossroads where the unnatural scenarios of a natural process (dying) collide regularly with the natural impulses of an artificial morality (the state.)

This weekend, the federal government retreated from its apparent order that news media would not be allowed to photograph Katrina's dead. The order, said a federal spokesman, had been misunderstood; Gen. Russell Honore had only ordered that news media would not be allowed on corpse-recovery teams. They would otherwise be allowed to do their work -- they'd just have to get to the site on their own and operate without the benefit of government choppers, boats, humvees, etc.

Seems fair to me. On the First Amendment, I'm a purist: "Government shall make NO LAW..." Government agencies cannot restrain, pervert, frustrate or divert a reporter's right to tell the story; they needn't aid him either, except where the law requires them to provide infromation in the form of public documents, access to public gatherings, and protection of those rights.

Pat Robertson's recent call for the assassination of a foreign leader -- and ongoing debate over government's role in abortion, the wisdom of war, the death penalty, assisted suicide, stem-cell research, and right-to-die issues -- prove Americans grow uncomfortable when our government starts decorating the death chamber. It is our most significant life event, and the diversity of America reflects a diversity of sacredness in death.

Do we want a government that only fiddles with parking fees in national parks while the nation is privately gripped in debate over abortion? Of course not. Do we want the government to tell us how we should all feel about a brain-dead woman's right to die, a murderer's quiet death by injection, or the dignity of a bloated, rotting corpse in the French Quarter? No, we don't want that either.

The videos of terrorists beheading innocents are as grisly as anything I've ever seen. I made it a point to watch as many as I could. I never looked twice, but I saw them ... because I wanted to understand the enemy we face. I truly believe that every American should look at these videos, even if you puke, even if you fall unconscious, even if you can't sleep at night. When you've seen them, you'll know the ruthlessness, the barbarity, the evil we face. And when you know, you can gird yourself for a war unlike any other.

So back to photographing corpses in New Orleans ... several arguments can be made, including the need for our journalists to illustrate for safely distant readers/viewers the awesome scope of this deadly disaster. The pictures of a horrific event simply cannot be warm and fuzzy. Modern mainstream media are quite careful to warn consumers when they're about to show something potentially offensive. You get a chance to avert your eyes, turn the page or click off. Don't want to see it? Don't look.

The government was right to stand-down on the corpse-photo ban. Let newspapers, networks, TV stations and magazines be judged by their readers, not by bureaucrats and government ideologues.

I get no particular thrill from looking at dead bodies, but if you want to understand Katrina's toll, you should at least glance at these pictures.

Samantha Joy

I Googled this account and discovered that at least one blog says Anne Gervasi didn't write it, that it was in fact written by a Dr. Shari Julian. Before I passed it on, I wrote Ms. Gervasi and asked her if those were her words, at the e-mail address given. She responded immediately and said:

"Since Shari Julian was on Dateline Friday, I feel that I can tell you that she is my friend who donated her time working with refugees. I am NOT a psychologist, and I don’t want her ideas misrepresented as mine; PLEASE pass this on. I know that Shari will be delighted with your response to her. I do not want any of the Princes of Spin to use this mix-up against her or against me. I agreed to pass on her reflections since I have an extensive email list. Somehow, my name became associated as the psychologist. I am an English professor, so please contact Dr. Julian at the addresses in the cc line."

Dr. Julian's address is sharijulian at charter.net

(The blog in question is William River Pitt's, who acknowledged his original error and has corrected the information.)

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