Monday, January 03, 2005

Elective Attention and Selective Compassion

When I read this article by Peter Phillips of Project Censored, I felt as though he had been reading my mind. For throughout the week of media coverage of the Tsunami I was comparing in my imagination the climbing numbers of dead and displaced and the pictures of devastation wrought by nature that the cameras lovingly caressed and obsessively replayed with the similar numbers and pictures coming out of Iraq but nearly as obsessively avoided and obscured by the same corporate media.

Meanwhile I was also comparing the outpouring of compassion for the tsunami victims generated by the media coverage with the seeming complacency of most Americans to the same kinds of violent death and displacement in the same numbers by the War in Iraq, and I wondered if the war could have ever been started or (at least ever allowed to continue so long) if a similar consciousness of the carnage had been emblazoned on their TVs from day one of the brief and meatless debate leading up to the war. If the answer, as I suspect, is ’no’ then the media itself has blood on its hands. Sins of omission are just as damning as sins of commission.

But Phillips did not go far enough in his extrapolation for now that the pictures of the Tsunami have been tattooed on our retinas we, none of us, have any further excuse for complacency. If you have the imagination to empathize with those victims of Mother Nature in the Indian Ocean, then you have the imagination to extrapolate those images onto the blasted and radiation (Depleted Uranium) contaminated landscape and the bomb-shredded victims in Baghdad and Falluja and Mosul and… And then contemplate that those bombs are bought with your tax dollars. And that Representatives you voted for (if you voted at all) voted for this war because they feared you would not vote for them if they did not. Or they feared their corporate sponsors would not fund their next campaign or would not give them that defense or energy industry job after they left public service..

Wake up and smell the blood America. It is on your hands. You helped to generate the man-imagined and man-created Tsunami that has engulfed Iraq and you are allowing it to continue by default. And you are condoning the conditions that prevent aid reaching the victims. That is the heavy price of democracy. When things go horribly wrong every citizen is morally accountable for the results.

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