A couple of months ago I opened an email that I later wished I hadn’t. It contained photographs, grisly, explicit photographs of the victims of the Itamar massacre.
Yuli Edelstein, Israel’s Minister of Information explained the decision thus: “our goal in sending out the photos was clear: to show that this attack crossed all lines.”
A fair point, surely. Israelis – sadly – are perhaps more desensitized than others around the world to scenes of horror and devastation, yet what happened to the Fogels was incomprehensible.
Fresh from this cold-blooded and brutal massacre – lest we forget, a three-month-old baby was decapitated – the desire to show the world the truth was more than understandable.
But was it right? Releasing those photos (done with the family’s permission) could not change the facts of what happened. More importantly, what signal does it send to greet a nightmare with another.
The same goes for the Kodak moment of Osama bin Laden’s death.
Five days after his death was announced, the chorus of voices demanding pictorial evidence has not subsided. Without a land grave, for many, there cannot be catharsis without a picture of bin Laden’s bullet-ridden body.
The Obama administration has umm and ahhd about releasing the photos and expressed concern they would be used “as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool”.
Good on them. Frankly, why does the world need to see another scene of brutality?
The argument that such evidence would lay rest conspiracy theories about bin Laden’s death is nonsense, or there’d be no crazed whispers about the moon-landing, September 11 or of JFK’s assassination.
For those who want to believe a conspiracy, a picture is worthless. With Photoshop and the best computer geeks in the world at their disposal, the White House could (and I’m not suggesting for one moment they would) easily manipulate an image.
But more importantly, there’s more than enough violent imagery out there – much of it the result of al-Qaida’s handiwork – without adding to it on the front page of every newspaper in the world.