Kevin Sites has a commentary up on his blog about the video he shot, the background of the events, and his justification for releasing the footage.
It’s a good read, and I suggest you go check it out.
It points out a subtle, but interesting thing to me.First, that there were two things he could have done with the tape. He could have informed an officer and released the tape to him to evaluate the soldier’s actions for potential prosecution.
But that would have implied that the military controlled the information flow, and that he – as a journalist – acknowledged that control.
Or he could have released them to his pool, as he did.
And he did that because to him – and in reality – the media are no longer subservient to the military, they are its peers (and some would say, its masters).
This connects with Tim Oren’s post below, in that the impact of an ‘information rich’ war is in part driven by the ability of an individual to shoot video, and distribute it widely around the world in essentially real time (a matter of days), quickly enough to drive responses to action within a decision cycle – something that would have been essentially impossible until this decade.
This changes things profoundly.
Control of information is important in two ways – operationally and strategically.
Operationally communication like two-way radios and cell phones make it possible for guerillas to communicate dynamically and to maintain an information-rich battlefield. I assume that our military is capable of and does jam the commercial frequencies (which is why the Fallouja guerillas were reduced to using signal flags).
Strategically, however, the impacts are much greater.
It’s hard to deliberately shape the perception of what’s going on when there is a relatively free flow of information from the battlefield.
And it’s harder when the two sides react in such different ways to what is shown.
I have to believe that jihadis – had the roles in the video been reversed, and a black-garbed guerilla (I use that term for our opponents in Fallouja because in this context, they are fighting against a military force – they are equally terrorists in other contexts) shot a wounded, disarmed Marine slumped against a wall – would have seen the images as an excuse to party.
One side cheers blood, the other shuns it. We love life, and they seek death.
The problem of course, is that we’re perfectly capable of cheering death.
We don’t in part because we turn away out of our acculturated politeness and in no small part because the gatekeepers of our media don’t want to show us the scenes that they know would inflame us.
The issue with that is, of course the notion that our will to win is the most important thing we bring to the fight.
We live in comfort, have the most lethal military in history, and so don’t need to want to win as badly as someone who is facing us from the other side.
But we still have to want to win. And the sad reality is that every time we see an image of one of our killing one of theirs – particularly if it isn’t ‘fair’, a little bit of that will leaks out.
We don’t know how to maintain morale in an information-rich war. We’re going to have to, because that’s what the future holds for us.
They took all the footage off my T.V.
Said it’s too disturbing for you and me
It’ll just breed anger that’s what the experts say
If it was up to me I’d show it everyday
Some say this country’s just out looking for a fight
After 9/11 man I’d have to say that’s right
– Darryl Worley ‘Have you forgotten’