TIME and the TIMES
I was brought to Time’s Light Box by a post on Facebook about this piece: Witness to a Syrian Execution: “I Saw a Scene of Utter Cruelty”. An unnamed (for his safety) photojournalist documented public beheadings in Syria. The first photo is the ‘before’ moment. I have not hit the play button to see the rest. Reading the title and seeing the first image is enough and then reading the article and words by the photographer is more than enough. Why would someone want or need to look at more? Why is there a need to publish all of this?
“Because of the danger in reporting inside Syria, it was not possible to confirm the identity or political affiliation of the victim. Nor are we certain about the motivation of his killers. One eyewitness who lives in the area and was contacted by TIME a week after the beheadings said that the executioners were from ISIS, an Al-Qaeda franchise operating in Syria and Iraq.” Like the NY Times front page of the mass executions by rebels, here again horrific images are published without specific knowledge. The Times finds out its front page image is over a year old and the correction is buried, not front page news. I feel manipulated. I am troubled by this trend by the big NEWS organizations of getting the “shots”, being the first, etc. This has always been the case with photojournalism but the landscape is different now with social media and everything being filmed or photographed and then being circulated without the facts or without verifiable facts.
Looking at the NY Times image again, I see that we cannot identify those being shot (thankfully) but we can clearly see the shooters. Has this image been their death sentence? Because I haven’t looked at the rest of the Time images, I don’t know whether or not, we can see the faces of the executioners.
Barbie Zelizer writes about ‘About to Die’ Images. From an interview in Slate: “We’re squeamish because news pictures of the dead and dying are of real people and real events. If a news image works, it penetrates, lingers, forces our attention to the events involving death that it depicts. If a news image works, it doesn’t disappear when we cast aside the newspaper, dim the TV or turn off the Internet. That may be more intrusion than most people are willing to allow.”
These images from Syria haunt me. But are they really news images? What is the news? The rebels are bad too? Many Syrians are barbaric? That the war is horrific? Many questions, no easy answers.
I also have been following Watching Syria’s War at the Times but interestingly, I had trouble finding this section – no link from the Crisis in Syria section. If that front page photo of the mass execution had been in these sections, the politics would have been much different since it would be in the context of the difficulty of reporting in Syria and not being able to always know what is going on.