Should Images of War Be Censored?

Updated on February 21, 2018

Should War Images Be Posted Publicly?

This is a highly contested issue currently in the United States of America. It goes beyond the Democrat vs. Republican debate it also affects the press and the government. The press feels that in showing these graphic images of war and suffering society will get a better look at who suffers the most and what the "cost" of war really looks like. They will argue that the monetary cost is not greater than the loss of life and the psychological distress that come with it. On the other hand, the government believes that in showing the horrific imagery of war will do more damage to soldiers coming home from the war and their families. Some will also contend that the images will cause more hatred toward a country or society. Some will even go further in their ideology of saying that these images may be altered in ways to portray an enemy being a lot worse than we think using current technology.

A distraught father holds the body of his child as South Vietnamese Rangers look down from their armored vehicle, March 19, 1964. The child was killed as government forces pursued guerrillas into a village near the Cambodian border.
A distraught father holds the body of his child as South Vietnamese Rangers look down from their armored vehicle, March 19, 1964. The child was killed as government forces pursued guerrillas into a village near the Cambodian border. | Source

What are considered war images?

The war images we usually see on television are ones with dirt-covered children, fields littered with the destruction of vehicles and building, and soldiers usually trying to help others or marching to a specific location. Although all of these things do happen during a battle or war in general, the press is talking about releasing footage of things much worse as described above. We are talking about dead soldiers, civilian casualties, bombed hospitals with dead mothers and children inside, and among other things that once seen cannot be unseen. This is what the press is trying to push on a consistent basis and what the government thinks is a gross misrepresentation of what war is supposed to be. The establishment usually wants a war to end with "little amount of lives lost", but we all know that is never going to happen in such a conflict.

Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, South Vietnamese chief of the national police, fires his pistol into the head of suspected Viet Cong official Nguyen Van Lem on a Saigon street early in the Tet Offensive, February 1, 1968.
Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, South Vietnamese chief of the national police, fires his pistol into the head of suspected Viet Cong official Nguyen Van Lem on a Saigon street early in the Tet Offensive, February 1, 1968. | Source

Arguments for War Images to be Released

There are so many arguments for and against showing these grotesque images. Both sides have legitimate arguments based on what side you're on. We will be discussing both the pros and cons of releasing these war images to the mainstream media. Some of the sources I have read agree that these images should be shown to the public because we can learn more about why war is not the answer to our world problems. People at the top, of course, will argue that war is necessary to keep threats at bay and hoping that our violence towards them will deter them from future problems.

One article I read gives us an idea of why we are immune to some of the atrocities committed by certain human beings. "What war does to the body is never shown, nor are the beheading of hostages, the victims of terrorist attacks, of lynch mobs, or the corpses artfully arranged by Mexican gangs in their urban wars against one another (30,000 people have been killed over the last few years), just as, in a different register, we never get to see pictures of road accidents or crime scenes. Thus, large parts of our reality escape media coverage, suggesting that what we do not see does not exist and that, for want of images, violence remains virtual." What the author is debating here is that we are now depending on other "fictional" methods of getting our fix for how war is supposed to look like by watching fictional TV series or playing video games like Call of Duty or Halo. This also leads to the blame game between the two sides. After the Sandy Hook massacre, the NRA was quick to blame our culture for video games showing these graphic images and causing this shooting to happen. The NRA, of course, missed the fact that the kid was mentally ill and carried rifles from his mother's house to carry out his attack. He just happened to play a lot of Call of Duty games and the establishment took advantage to push their agenda for not releasing these images. I would argue like the press would that things like this would not happen as often if we teach our kids and show them what an atrocity looks like. Science has told us now that we tend to learn when we see things that are shocking or disgusting in order to deter us from doing damage.

Another article from Time Magazine states that if we are so big on starting wars, why are we so afraid to see what the real effects are? "In his new book, War Porn, photographer Christoph Bangert asks: “How can we refuse to acknowledge a mere representation—a picture—of a horrific event, while other people are forced to live through the horrific event itself?”" This is another point in which is strongly believe in. Why should we be immune to see what other people are seeing, in particular people who we are doing damage to? Americans love to play God only when it benefits them, but not when they are forced to the see sad and horrific reality that is the loss of lives whether it's from soldiers or civilians. We are so afraid to see what people in war torn countries see that the establishment has made it it's mission to abolish it all from the mainstream media. Although, it is not banned from social media or the Internet.

A lot of arguments can be made for both sides of this discussion. The establishment and their allies believe that in releasing these war images that they are going to be more consequences than good that come out of it. The press feels like I do in a sense that in releasing the war images we as human beings will better learn of the damage we cause.

An unidentified American soldier wears a hand-lettered slogan on his helmet, June 1965. The soldier was serving with the 173rd Airborne Brigade on defense duty at the Phuoc Vinh airfield.
An unidentified American soldier wears a hand-lettered slogan on his helmet, June 1965. The soldier was serving with the 173rd Airborne Brigade on defense duty at the Phuoc Vinh airfield. | Source
A woman mourns over the body of her husband after identifying him by his teeth, and covering his head with her conical hat. The man’s body was found with forty-seven others in a mass grave near Hue, April 11, 1969.
A woman mourns over the body of her husband after identifying him by his teeth, and covering his head with her conical hat. The man’s body was found with forty-seven others in a mass grave near Hue, April 11, 1969. | Source

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    • Fred Heiser profile image

      Fred 

      8 months ago from SoCal

      No. First Amendment protects all forms of speech, printing and other forms of expression. It is the only counter to the government which will readily lie to manipulate you or just to look good.

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