Friday, May 27, 2011
BOB GARFIELD: This is On the Media. I'm Bob Garfield. And now for some of your letters, comments and tweets. We heard from many of you after we aired the segment on whether the Obama administration should have made the decision to release a photo of Osama bin Laden’s corpse.
Anne Hubbard wrote, quote, “I did not agree with celebration of his death. I was not saddened. I thought it was necessary. Obama is right. This is not who we are. There is something medieval about gloating over a body, and I believe that’s what this is about. I have no doubt that the image would show up on t-shirts and targets.”
Chris from Chicago took the opposing view. “I would like to see the photo released,” he wrote. “I know it seems wrong to some people, but our country was hurt badly on September 11th and most people I know couldn't help but feel happy when we heard of his death. War is hell, and there’s no shortage of pictures detailing that, the Abu Ghraib pictures, the towers collapsing, etc. We are visual people who use images to tell our stories. A picture of bin Laden dead, while brutal, would help millions of people feel a little bit of closure in this situation.”
For that segment, I spoke with Paul Waldman of The American Prospect, who was advocating for the photos to be released, and The New Yorker’s Philip Gourevitch, who thought they should not be. Towards the end of the interview, they had this discussion. Paul Waldman speaks first.
PAUL WALDMAN: We didn't need the photograph of the Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima to make us understand that we had won World War II, but it communicated a great deal about what we understood about that event, what it was supposed to represent, what it was supposed to tell us about us.
PHILIP GOUREVITCH: The image of Iwo Jima is exactly the opposite. It happens also to be a staged reenactment, as we now know.
BOB GARFIELD: Many of you responded to Gourevitch’s point that the photo of Iwo Jima was staged. Listener Brian Vargo writes, quote, “It is irresponsible to let someone say that on air. I cannot fathom how a program titled On the Media would allow something like that to go unchallenged.”
And listener Ben Bradley concurred. “My grandfather is in that picture,” he wrote. “I would like you to know that the flag-raising picture was not staged.”
Tim Zinnen brought the facts to bear on the issue when he wrote, quote, “Please correct for your listeners the statement your guest from The New Yorker made that the photo of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima was staged. It was not. It was a snapshot of the raising of a second larger flag. To say the photo was staged gives the wrong impression that the photographer directed the placement and positioning of the Marines and Corpsmen. There’s a difference between a staged photo and a photo of a staged event. All flag-raisings are staged events.”
The issue has sparked years of controversy, and we've addressed it on the show before. To say the photograph was staged is wrong. However, it was also not of the original triumphal moment. As listener Tim Zinnen wrote, the photo captured the raising of a second flag. Photographer Joe Rosenthal, who took the image, has never disputed that fact.
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