I must admit, I’m torn on this one.
In the past few days, there has been some discussion about the AP running a photograph of Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua “Bernie” Bernard, injured and dying. According to this story, there was much soul-searching and debate over whether to run the picture, as part of a photographic journal of the War in Afghanistan. Cpl. Bernard’s family requested that the photo not be released, but the responsible editors – those who own the photographs – made the decision to publish the photo, as part of a larger story. Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressed his disappointment over this picture being run, and the responses coming from comments from newspaper readers and blog readers run the gamut from “I find the decision to be a disgusting one,” from a Twitter commenter, to “A picture is worth a thousand words. I applaud your courage to distribute the photo and the story of the death of Lance Cpl. Bernard,” from a gentleman named Ruiz, who identifies himself as a fellow Marine.
I am torn. I can only imagine the anguish that the family is enduring, and completely understand why they would not want the photo to run. On the other hand, photos like this exist from both World Wars, from Vietnam, from Korea, and as far back as the Civil War, so why shouldn’t pictures be run from this war, as well? War is not pretty. Deaths happen in war, and death has been so sanitized by today’s movies, games, and TV, sometimes we need to see it for real to remind us that it is not a game.
On the OTHER other hand… we are approaching Sept. 11. Where are the photos of that horror? What happened right after the Twin Towers went down? The news media, as a group, decided that the pictures were “too disturbing” to show, that our children were too delicate, that our sensibilities would be offended, if they showed those pictures.
And, on the other other OTHER hand, should the feelings of the family or families come into play? While I understand that the family of that young Marine, or the families of the 9/11 victims, might not want the photos run, should those feelings be considered, or is this one place where the good of the many really should take precedence over the needs of the few?
So which is it? Yes, war is hell. Yes, people die. The question is, do we need to see it on the pages of our newspapers? And if we need to see a young Marine “in the throes of death,” as one radio announcer described, shouldn’t we also see the photos from the event that caused that Marine to give his life?