“…a lovely, bloodless, corpseless war, just the sort the politicians love.”
David Hackworth (1)
If images of war set the tone for public support, then the best images are the ones that tell almost no story at all. Such seems to be the case with the recent bombing of an ISIL network in a remote area of Afghanistan, otherwise known in American foreign policy circles as the first time the Mother Of All Bombs (MOAB) GBU-43. In combing through numerous articles, videos, and commentary over the event I am certain about one thing: the weapon is the only story available to be told.
From Al Jazeera to ABC, from Reuters to Russia Today, we are more likely to see images of the weapon being tested, in a warehouse, or the silent black and white drone footage released by the Pentagon that requires an expert to explain. If this bomb is indeed as powerful as all these sources are describing, where are the images of what it has actually done to the area in question?
The news sources I mention above do include witness testimony about “feeling” the Earth shake and “seeing” fire and smoke. Some of these witnesses were indeed thrilled by the idea of ISIL taking a hit, however others in Afghanistan are less happy with both the choice of weapon and the bombing itself. But to date, we have no verified images of the immediate aftermath or the devastation that must have followed. In an age where mobile and digital tools have forever changed the way we witness war, I find this an interesting and perhaps purposeful situation.
Am I suggesting that news networks are neglecting or suppressing images of Afghan suffering or collateral damage? No. If we do not have these images it is not because these things have not occurred, although it is possible they did not. I suggest it is because the Trump administration made a decision to bomb an ISIL target far enough away from international eyes and cameras so that the only narrative that could emerge was a clean and very distant view of a continuing military operation in Afghanistan that has proven very unpopular with the public.
If you’re going to wag the dog, its probably smart to make sure its a dog that people want to see.
- Young, Peter R, and Peter Jesser. The Media And The Military. 1st ed. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1997.
We are delighted to welcome Christa Blackmon for a stint as an LGM guest poster! Christa is a media anthropologist with critical experience in social media campaigns and opEd writing. A native of Miami, Florida she attended American University’s School of International Service from 2005 to 2008, focusing on Peace and Conflict Resolution in the Middle East. Christa was formerly the Senior Editor of Palestine Note and has frequently worked with BoomGen Studios as a social media strategist on various film and media projects, including the Oscar nominated documentary The Square. She completed her Masters program in Social Anthropology with Merit at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London . Her dissertation is, “Mediating Memory: Oral Histories of the Nakba Online”, was awarded a Distinction. A self-described “fiction junkie”, Christa has a passion for science fiction literature and media and its relation to social science. She also maintains a blog about the ethics of viewing images of suffering in Western media, sightofsuffering.tumblr.com.