Recycling Myths To Remember A War

You cannot report a war from the front lines. You can only report a battle. Ducking under fire, scared for your life, beholden to the largess and tolerance of the military forces you are traveling with, denuded of context, obsessed with the immediate action unfolding in front of you, while constantly keeping an eye over your shoulder for the ‘enemy’, riddled with panic, fear, doubt, and worry a reporter on the front line struggles to keep up with unfolding events. Like watching a movie, she is unable to see and think simultaneously – she can merely report the immediate, the literal, as it unfolds in front of her. And an embedded reporter is in an even worse position – trapped not only physically, but also ideologically and with the constant fear of being ‘locked’ out if she fails to tow the line.

But wars are not merely the combat and journalism isn’t only about reporting the battles. In fact, when it comes to wars, one could safely argue that the battles are the least interesting pieces of information, and the most misleading. They tell us nothing about how we got into the war, the broader social, political, economic, cultural and individual devastation they unleash, the millions of lives of ‘the enemy’ that are torn asunder, the suffering of those left in the wake of the war machine and the festering and degrading realities that emerge as a result of the occupations and repressions that necessarily follow.

The focus on the battles distracts from the war itself – its reasons, its objectives, and lets be honest, its real consequences for those who were trampled under it. And certainly when it comes to wars of choice, those that our leaders led us into on the basis of lies, journalists have to accept that the front line is in fact the worst place to report as it is most distant from where one can make the inquiries and investigations, understand the realities and histories, that went to make the war, and that plague the came in the aftermath.

But of course, photographers need ‘action’ and ‘events’, and the medium cannot comprehend many of these complexities is then left documenting only the most obvious, and literal manifestations of a conflict – the violence itself. But violence tells us nothing, nor does it really tell the story of a war. As was evidenced by most all the photo slide shows that recently appeared to ‘commemorate’ the 10th anniverary of the American attack on Iraq. Most all simply focused on the battles, the soldiers, the weaponry, the casualties – the front line where truth is in fact practically impossible to find. Details »

An Idea Of The Modern

The writer Amit Chaudhuri, someone whose works I have long admired, recently gave a short interview to The White Review where he discussed his new work Calcutta: Two Years In The City. The interview, conducted by Anita Sethi, takes place, we are told…

…almost 5,000 miles away from Calcutta: we meet in central London one freezing cold day in February.

And yet she claims that despite the distance – in geography, experience and I would argue urban imaginations, Chuadhuri’s conversation allows them to be…

…imaginatively transported into the heat of Calcutta, the central character of the new book, which the author explores in all its complexities and contradictions. One can almost see, smell, taste and touch the life of the city’s streets and its inhabitants.

What follows is a fairly ordinary interview – probably commissioned as a result of Chaudhuri’s publisher’s efforts to get him exposure for his new work in the all-important market of the UK, where he discusses his thoughts of the Indian modern, literary influences and his reasons for writing the book.

What was really striking about Chaudhuri’s responses was that all his references – whether literary and others, were Western. There is no non-European here, let alone an India, an Asia or even something remotely related. Details »

Bradley Manning’s Voice – Leaked Audio Recording Of Manning’s Court Statement

The Freedom of the Press Foundation has secured the full audio recording of Bradley Manning’s court statement. Manning’s trial has been a closley guarded secret, and this release of the court statement is the first time we hear Manning explain his actions in his own words.

Hearing Manning’s statement reminds us that this is a 25-year old man who took on the arrogance, indifference, and imperial hubris of a world super power. They bring into stark light the fact the pettiness and hypocrisy of a government that has chosen to crush the life of one man, rather than confront the many illegal actions his leaks revealed. Details »