On covering barbarism

April 1, 2004

I’ve had a lump in my throat most of the past 24 hours while trying to make sense of the Iraqi jubilation over the dead, burnt bodies of Americans. I can’t help wonder what moves people to such depravity, what silences the inner voice telling people the terror I visit on others today will be visited on me tomorrow. The concept of “there’ll be hell to pay for this” generally keeps people in line, so I wonder: what the hell happened?

Newsdesigner has a bunch of the front pages, which generally show Iraqis mocking the dead, stringing corpses on bridges, celebrating madly.

The pictures say one thing, but I’ve been looking to the stories for more context, more explanation, more something to help me understand, but so far I haven’t seen much. Something has to trigger the barbarian impulse. It’s in all of us, straw waiting for a spark. I’d love to know who lit that spark, but so far all we have is description of the carnage.

Description is fine, as far as it goes, but we need a lot more. Is it fair to ask if yesterday’s atrocities were hell-to-pay for the damage we’ve done to Iraq?

I saw one story which mentioned Iraqi resentment over the high salaries paid to American security personnel. Were these contract employees deliberately targeted to send a message?

We need a lot more answers, and until they arrive it’s wise to suspend judgment on what this whole thing means.

One small point of comfort: if we ever get to the point where gore like this is not news, then we’ve got something serious to worry about.

6 Responses to On covering barbarism

  1. KP on April 1, 2004 at 10:37 am

    Interesting to view what’s front-page news where…

  2. Ted on April 1, 2004 at 11:09 am

    I can’t help wonder what moves people to such depravity, what silences the inner voice telling people the terror I visit on others today will be visited on me tomorrow.
    And you see no irony in this, a nation and a media who supported bombing Iraq to hell?

  3. ricardo on April 1, 2004 at 11:41 am

    I assume they were taking out the agressions they felt after so many thousands of innocent men, women and children have been killed by our bombs and bullets, errant or not. We call it collateral damage; they just see their children dead by American shrapnel. While this is a particularly disgusting display, it seems like a reasonably logical response from their point of view. I imagine we’d all want to do the same thing if the national of Iraq, acting as self-appointed representative of western nations in a war against terror or something like that, decided to bomb the midwest after being attacked themselves by someone else entirely.

  4. tom on April 1, 2004 at 12:10 pm

    I’m not talking about garden-variety revenge killings — lord knows we’ve got a few coming to us. I’m talking about what makes people get completely wacked out … the fact that this event is big news means that it’s a departure from the norm; Iraq presumably has 23 million who would rightly despise us, but only a few played games with charred human remains. I wonder where *that* comes from

  5. kowgurl on April 1, 2004 at 12:45 pm

    You think that its big news because its a departure from the norm? Not because, say, the media wants to make sure Americans are good and pissed at the Iraqis?

  6. tom on April 1, 2004 at 12:59 pm

    IF you think the media wants something more than a audience to tell a story to, you’re gonna see more than is really there.
    People do nutty stuff, we write stories about it; they’re remarkably reliable.