Wednesday, 6 January 2016

War Is Beautiful

It is not often that one comes across a photo book cover that is meant to be read. In fact, among the many photo books that have passed through my hands I do not recall a single one that provided, next to the praise of some well known people, a brief introduction. The one by David Shields starts with: "Yes, of course, from Homer to Matthew Brady to Robert Capa, war photographers have aestheticized war, but nothing prepared me for the hundreds of full-color pictures that appeared on the front page of the New York Times from the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 until now."

Well, to rank Homer among war photographers I do find a bit far-fetched but, obviously, what David Shields deplores is the aestheticisation of war and the subtitle of his "War Is Beautiful" sums his view up succinctly: "The New York Times Pictorial Guide to Armed Conflict."

Shields reviewed The New York Times front pages from the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 until the present. What he found was that "the governing ethos was unmistakably one that glamorized war and the sacrifices made in the service of war."

I must admit that I do not find this in the least astonishing for newspapers are primarily meant to entertain and not to educate us. And, above all, they should be profitable. In other words, nobody would want to be confronted with pictures of war atrocities over breakfast. Such newspapers simply wouldn't sell, I imagine newspaper owners to argue behind closed doors.

That major news organisations such as The New York Times "and the U.S. government use each other to instantiate their own authority" doesn't come as a surprise either: newspapers owners are pillors of society and not primarily given to challenging inquiry.

Nevertheless ... 

For the full review, see

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