Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The Pentagon has banned the media from taking pictures of military caskets returning from war since 1991. The Pentagon imposed the ban on images at Dover shortly before the invasion of Iraq last March, saying it continued an order from the Clinton administration in November 2000.
“America knows full well that our men and women are serving and serving brilliantly both in Iraq and around the world. ... America is aware this is a war against terrorism,” said Trent Duffy, a spokesman for Bush. But, he said, “the message is [that] the sensitivity and privacy of families of the fallen must be the first priority.”
This policy, of course, also serves to keep any graphic reminders from the public that our troops are dying daily in a war which the American public has turned against. The Bush Administration has also fought tooth and nail the release of additional photos and videos of the abuse of Abu Ghraib prisoners.
The media, it must be said, is largely complicit in keeping reality and the public at arms length. While the phrase, "if it bleeds, it leads" is certainly true, there's also a maxim that you don't want to turn off your audience by showing anything too gruesome as they may turn off the TV. The idea being that people do not want to see anything too nasty during the dinner hour that may upset the proper digestion of their meals.
So the Government bans and censors and the media self-censors and everyone is spared anything that may upset our delicate sensibilities -- like a bloody war waged in our name or, now, the deadly results of criminal inaction on the part of our Government in the case of Hurricane Katrina:
U.S. agency blocks photos of New Orleans dead
07 Sep 2005 00:56:29 GMT
NEW ORLEANS, Sept 6 (Reuters) - The U.S. government agency leading the rescue efforts after Hurricane Katrina said on Tuesday it does not want the news media to take photographs of the dead as they are recovered from the flooded New Orleans area.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, heavily criticized for its slow response to the devastation caused by the hurricane, rejected requests from journalists to accompany rescue boats as they went out to search for storm victims.
An agency spokeswoman said space was needed on the rescue boats and that "the recovery of the victims is being treated with dignity and the utmost respect."
"We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media," the spokeswoman said in an e-mailed response to a Reuters inquiry.
How does this ban work you may ask? The National Press Photographers Association reports:
New Orleans Times-Picayune reporter Gordon Russell witnessed gunfire between police and civilians that he says "left one man dead in a pool of blood." Afterwards police slammed Russell and the photojournalist against a wall and threw their equipment to the ground when the duo got out of their SUV to cover the scene. Russell says afterward they retreated to the reporter's home where they hid, and plan to flee the city Thursday evening.
Toronto Star staff photojournalist Lucas Oleniuk was taken to the ground by police in the Spanish Quarter after he photographed a firefight between looters and police, and police were then reportedly "beating on" a looter. A coworker at the Toronto Star told News Photographer magazine tonight, "The cops saw him and put him down, and took his gear. At first they were going to take all of his cameras, but he talked them into only taking the memory cards and letting him keep the cameras."
And Brian Williams blogs the following on MSNBC:
At one fire scene, I counted law enforcement personnel (who I presume were on hand to guarantee the safety of the firefighters) from four separate jurisdictions, as far away as Connecticut and Illinois. And tempers are getting hot. While we were attempting to take pictures of the National Guard (a unit from Oklahoma) taking up positions outside a Brooks Brothers on the edge of the Quarter, the sergeant ordered us to the other side of the boulevard. The short version is: there won't be any pictures of this particular group of guard soldiers on our newscast tonight. Rules (or I suspect in this case an order on a whim) like those do not HELP the palpable feeling that this area is somehow separate from the United States.
At that same fire scene, a police officer from out of town raised the muzzle of her weapon and aimed it at members of the media... obvious members of the media... armed only with notepads. Her actions (apparently because she thought reporters were encroaching on the scene) were over the top and she was told. There are automatic weapons and shotguns everywhere you look. It's a stance that perhaps would have been appropriate during the open lawlessness that has long since ended on most of these streets. Someone else points out on television as I post this: the fact that the National Guard now bars entry (by journalists) to the very places where people last week were barred from LEAVING (The Convention Center and Superdome) is a kind of perverse and perfectly backward postscript to this awful chapter in American history.
And this from A NOLA blogger:
We are in Jefferson Parish, just outside of New Orleans. At the National Guard checkpoint, they are under orders to turn away all media. All of the reporters are turning they’re TV trucks around.
Things are so bad, Bush is now censoring all reporting from NOLA. The First Amendment sank with the city.
These reports would seem to suggest (if not SCREAM) that photos of the dead are not the only thing being censored. While one can understand that a family member may not want to discover the death of a loved one by seeing their face splashed across a TV screen or newspaper, anyone who has Photoshop knows that identifying features can be blurred out while still conveying pictures that are worth a thousand words.
What is being censored is any news or photos which will raise the ire of the public -- anything which will remind the public that Bush screwed up BIG TIME.
Any moment now, FOX News and other Bush apologists will start asking, "Where are all the good (feel good) news stories from NOLA? Just as they constantly asked the same question for Iraq.
Indeed, the only stories and photographs that this administration and the GOP want you to see are pictures like this:
(Note that some 1,000 firefighters were given PR
We have heard estimates that there will be 10, 000 to 40,000 dead in the Gulf. The media has reported that there will be no autopsies (autopsies that could show if someone drowned or died of dehydration and if that occurred during the flooding or while they awaited for help that never came). Furthermore, family members will not have the chance to identify the dead before they are buried (though we are told that fingerprints and DNA sample will be taken at the morgue to create a data base that families may access at some unspecified time in the future).
So we have a catastrophic event with a likely death toll in the tens of thousands where numerous questions exist as to who contributed to this tragedy and THE MEDIA IS BEING SHUT OUT FROM DOCUMENTING THE DEVASTATION.
In light of this, I am publishing photos of the dead of New Orleans that have managed to make their way out of the city before the ban was imposed. I have blurred the faces of the deceased where appropriate. Many of these photos came from ogrish.com, others from the foreign press.
You can turn away from these pictures as Bush wants or you can look. But I believe that YOU should have the right to make that choice.
Grieve for the dead and the families who grieve them, those whose lives have been destroyed, and the First Amendment to the Constitution -- and give to the Liberal Blogs for Hurricane Relief, the Red Cross or the charity of your choice.