Keep Your Anti-War, Anti-Choice, Anti-Drone Death Porn to Yourself

My Thursday column begins like so:

Yesterday morning I was making my usual rounds through the blogs when I habitually clicked over to Andrew Sullivan’s site, as I do every day because I dig the insight, variety and brevity of Sullivan’s writing even though I don’t always agree with him.

As I scrolled down through several of Sullivan’s posts there was something about The Simpsons, a Hathos Alert, a post about George Washington and Barack Obama, and then it hit me — a sucker-punch of revulsion, anger and mild nausea at what had, without warning or invitation, appeared on my screen. It was a photograph of three people in what appeared to be a back alley in Iraq during the war: two very sad-looking men, one of whom was carrying a child who could’ve been a boy or a girl and appeared to have been two or three years old. The child was wrapped in a bloody white sheet and he or she was clearly dead, as indicated by the morning sunlight showing through a large, grisly head wound.

Sullivan included this horrifying photograph in a post (WARNING! Death porn!) that served as a tenth anniversary “maxima culpa” for having supported the Iraq invasion and occupation so vocally throughout much of the previous decade. [continue reading here -- no death porn within]

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  • zirgar

    I saw this post coming last night when I saw your tweets to Sully. I wanted to interject something at the time, but I was afraid I’d be misinterpreted, and really Twitter isn’t the best place for me to post rapid-fire responses to anything. I agree with you that there should be some kind of filter so people aren’t caught unaware, but I haven’t totally made up my mind that images like this are necessarily a bad thing. I really believe the value rests mostly on the context in which these kinds of images are used. In the context of Sully’s mea culpa it was tasteless and poor, to put it mildly. It was gratuitous. But I think that the argument you use against using images like these, that if you can’t make your point with words then using the images is a cop out, can be used as an argument for the efficacy of an image’s power to do just that, show what mere words cannot. Yes, some people will be offended and sickened, and yes these images should be used with the most judicious propriety possible, but I think sometimes, just sometimes an image should do the job of words, especially on teh subject of humaity’s worst attributes. When I saw that image, I was repulsed, yes, but mostly I was saddened. I felt empathy for the people carrying that tiny, mutilated body to who knows where. As I’m writing this at work, my eyes are watering up thinking about it. So, for me, while I think Sully’s use of it was self-serving, the overall result is that it punctuated and clearly destilled the idea that there is just too much goddamned suffering in this world and the innocent will always pay the heaviest price. Always. Fuck Bush. Fuck Cheney. Fuck Rumsfeld. Anyway, those are my thoughts, for what it’s worth.

  • jewelbomb

    Sully does this shit all the time . Thanks for calling him out.