The power of images

First off two apologies -- one for disappearing in the foothills of the Vosges for several days, the other for boring you with stories of that video.

The L.A. Times carries a story today that contains the following passage:
To the amazement of many in the human rights community, who had condemned the Srebrenica massacre and war crimes for years without getting much response in either Serbia or the Serb-majority areas of Bosnia, broadcast of the video appeared to have jolted and even horrified Serbian politicians known for their nationalism and failure to acknowledge Serb responsibility for war crimes.
Indeed, is the power of images sufficient explanation for this impact, or is the timing equally important? I mean, it's not as if people in Serbia were unable to know until last week what happened in Srebrenica, right?

The article continues,
Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica described the video as showing a "brutal, callous, shameful crime committed against civilians."
Serbian Justice Minister Zoran Stojkovic said the footage "was extremely important for the attitude of citizens toward war crimes. As a human being I'm truly shaken by viewing these images." [emphasis mine]
Why is viewing such images so much more shocking than knowing what happened? We've come to a point where the murder -- as brutal as a it was -- of six men appears more shocking than the massacre of thousands. It reminds me of the storming of Fallujah (with which Srebrenica has nothing in common): the shocking thing was not that the U.S. forces and their local allies (in fact, a battalion of Kurdish Peshmerga -- the other two Iraqi units had simply run away) leveled the city and made it uninhabitable for most of its population, or that they killed hundreds of residents -- the shocking thing was one marine killing one fighter, who he probably believed was booby-trapped. Why was it shocking? Because a cameraman happened to be nearby and filmed the whole thing.

No comments: