This article was posted on SMH today :
Give us the terrible truth: media must not censor tragedy
Why are the TV networks denying us our right to see 'upsetting' pictures of the reality of the terrorist attacks, asks Jenny Tabakoff.
Australian television has joined the US networks' rapid retreat from showing footage of the World Trade Centre towers' crashes and subsequent collapse. There have been general nods of approval about "responsible media" avoiding "gratuitous" repetition of upsetting images. And much mention of the risk of children being upset, or in need of counselling, after watching footage of these calamitous events.
Well, I disagree. Though I did not wake my older children (aged 11 and 8) on that fateful Tuesday night, I certainly turned on the TV the following morning, explaining that the images they were watching might well affect their lives.
It would have been irresponsible not to let them see. To deny children the chance to watch the events would be to deny them the opportunity to see that first rough draft of history. And yet, within days of the attacks, the US ABC network issued a directive virtually banning graphic images. NBC News, Fox News and CNN all cut back dramatically, too.
Closer to home, Ten has "avoided" the footage for more than a week, on the grounds that "people were being affected by it". Nine is "limiting the usage of it except where appropriate", and Seven, too, says it is avoiding anything "gratuitous".
I don't think it is the role of TV networks, or parents, or schools, to censor out history as it is happening, on the grounds that it may be upsetting. The only sensible thing for parents to do is to watch broadcasts, with our children, and deliver explanations in suitably simple, unemotive language.
Why do so many people deem it necessary for today's childhoods to be spent in a Legoland of bright colours, cushioned from real-life tragedy or drama?
More than a fortnight on, it's hard to object to the networks cutting back now on the images of the planes going into the buildings. The story has moved on. But to do so on the grounds that their repetition might upset people is ridiculous.
Most primary-school children have already seen scenes of death and destruction in the big city, in films ranging from Independence Day to Godzilla. Yet viewers have not seen a single corpse from this real-life disaster in which almost 7,000 people died.
Hypocrisy is not a word to toss around lightly, but surely it is at least ironic for the television networks, which have for years broadcast fictional disasters and horrors, to deny our children access to real history in the making. How tragicomic, too, to hear of networks canning scheduled broadcasts of disaster movies, and of film companies putting others, just completed, back in the can.
I am happy to live without the fiction - all those artistically framed shots of exploding buildings and bodies flying through the air - but I certainly do not want to be denied the facts.
Audiences were almost totally denied images of people with their faces pressed to the glass, or jumping from buildings to certain death, or of bodies strewn in the street - because the networks had again decided they were too upsetting. Yet the very act of not showing these scenes devalued the tragedy and the significance of the event.
Hollywood, and the networks that broadcast its products, have even robbed us of an original response to the event, leaving most people with nothing to say other than: "It was just like a movie ..."
Far from being "gratuitous", surely it is only if we see the whole picture - collapsing towers, doomed office-workers, dead bodies - that we can realise the devastating effect it has had on America and understand the reason for the events yet to come. The media should be in the business of telling the whole truth: they should not confuse their role with that of censors.
It is our right, and our children's, to see "upsetting" images of important historic events - precisely because they are not some rubbishy movie.
By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Thursday, September 27, 2001 - 06:50 pm:
A guy I work with went down to the WTC on Thursday after the attack. He is an EMT and was properly dressed so he actually got to help all day on Friday. I was stunned that he was able to do this... he even met the president in person.
Anyway. While he was working on the site, they'd occasionally find pieces of meat (his words) in the wreckage, and they'd have to stop and call the appropriate people over to "identify" it.
By TonyM on Thursday, September 27, 2001 - 07:08 pm:
Though I can't truely confirm the fact, a friend of mine from Mexico said that news casts had video images of people actually hitting the streets. Parts of them "exploded" on impact and squished them to where there was "no thickness" left.
Uhmm... even when I was small, I can tell the difference between real-life death, and that put on by hollywood. There's a real difference watching someone die a real death.
By Brad Grenz on Thursday, September 27, 2001 - 07:23 pm:
Well, it sounds like the author saw the footage and so have his children. What's he complaining about? They showed video basically non-stop, round the clock for 4 days. That's plenty. And I'm very, very glad all the networks refrained from airing footage they obviously had of people falling 100 stories to their gruesome deaths.
By Sparky on Thursday, September 27, 2001 - 07:55 pm:
CBS *did* show people jumping from the tower, the day of the event. It was horrible, and there was plenty of outrage and understanding in me without having to see that.
I wouldn't have watched the Rather blather anyway, but after that choice I'm not watching CBS news coverage again period.
They spent four days showing every conceivable angle of the second plane hitting the tower, and the towers collapsing. That was plenty. If the SMH author is concerned about his/her kids seeing the footage even more, perhaps he/she should buy a Tivo so they can watch the footage over and over again, in slow motion and backwards, and free-frame the really gory parts.
By Sean Tudor on Thursday, September 27, 2001 - 08:00 pm:
This may amaze many Americans here but there is currently a strong anti-US backlash here in Australia. This has shown its face in the form of thousands of letters sent to newspapers here in Aussie with a common attitude of "the US deserved this response because they stuck their nose in other peoples business".
This is not just from extremists but mostly from every day Joe and Sally Australia.
Of course I do not share this sentiment and many of these people fail to realise that many Australians died at the WTC.
This is also the result of living in a country that is relatively untouched and ignored by world terrorists.
By TomChick on Thursday, September 27, 2001 - 08:09 pm:
"Though I can't truely confirm the fact, a friend of mine from Mexico said that news casts had video images of people actually hitting the streets. Parts of them "exploded" on impact and squished them to where there was "no thickness" left."
Not sure I want to go here, but...I find this hard to believe. I've never seen a body fall dozens of stories, but I don't think they squish flat.
It was, however, pretty disturbing to see footage of a guy actually falling from one of the towers. The camera was a long way off and he was really only a speck, but you could make out that it was a person. Pretty disturbing and I'm glad this sort of thing usually doesn't air.
As an aside, my mother has worked with the Red Cross in some airline crash recoveries. She offers debriefing for rescue and recovery workers who might be dealing with any sort of post-traumatic stress disorder. She helped with the divers who recovered remains from Flight 800 off Long Island. She's in Washington right now at the site of the Pentagon crash. It's not easy for these people who are essentially gathering shattered bodies and my mother's job is to help them deal with this.
BTW, does anyone recall a 1996 New Yorker article called The Crash Detectives, by Jonathan Harr? Fascinating insight into how investigators learn what they learn from airline crashes.
By Sean Tudor on Thursday, September 27, 2001 - 08:16 pm:
One eyewitness reported the bodies didn't so much as go flat - they crunched through the concrete pavement so it gave the appearance of being flat.
Ugh - I am having headspins just thinking about this. Enough.
By Brad Grenz on Thursday, September 27, 2001 - 08:32 pm:
"This is not just from extremists but mostly from every day Joe and Sally Australia"
Ingrates. Next time we'll just let the Japanese invade Australia.
It's strage to hear people in Australia might not like us. Americans all seem to like Australians. Paul Hogan and Yahoo Serious notwithstanding.
And with the kind of speed you'd pick up falling 80, 90, 100, 110 floors it's hard to imagine the epidermis not failing.
By Bub (Bub) on Thursday, September 27, 2001 - 08:53 pm:
Australia is a very nice place to visit. And I'm sorry to hear about Joe and Sally... especially since my grandfather helped destroy marauding Japanese submarines off the Northern coast of that continent. Not stick our noses in, indeed!
Then again, there are American people with signs that say "Heil Bush" and anti-American signs in downtown Milwaukee right now. As much as that annoys me, especially since I'm a dove who wants violence to happen in response to this, freedom of speech is a wonderful thing that the Aussies are lucky to share with us.
So let 'em vent, I'd just like them to know that nothing the US could possibly do, no matter how heinous, deserves what happened on the 11th. Anyone see that there aren't enough firefighters available to send off the fallen firefighters properly? That made me very sad today.
(And I know Sean Tudor knows all this as well. I'm not singling you out in any way here Sean. Just adding this to make that abundantly clear.)
By Sean Tudor on Thursday, September 27, 2001 - 09:19 pm:
Yep that's ok Andrew. There are many uninformed people living here - including many of them at my workplace.
The same people that used to criticise me when they found out I had served 8 years in the Australian Army. The same people that would have come crying to me if Australia had been invaded by an enemy force.
By Chet on Thursday, September 27, 2001 - 11:17 pm:
While I turned away during the most gruesome scenes, and could not watch people jumping/falling, I do not have a problem with them showing that as it happened.
But this isn't a movie. This isn't being shown to get some kind of impact from the viewer, they shouldn't be there to manilpulate the viewer. As time passes and the images get disconnected from the tragedy people will find sick fascination in them, sounds like this guy. They will start appearing on sites like stile and people will talk about how cool they are.
By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Friday, September 28, 2001 - 02:25 am:
Since this thread is about the media censoring stuff, and whether or not they should...
Should they be able to tell us this?
(For those who don't click: It's about how the US has sent special forces into Afghanistan to find and (probably) kill bin Laden -- apparently we've been there since the 13th.)
By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Friday, September 28, 2001 - 02:26 am:
Hmm...This will open in a new window, for those who prefer that.
By Brad Grenz on Friday, September 28, 2001 - 02:38 am:
Oh good. Now Bin Laden's been given the heads up. Nice going USA Today. Would have been nice to have the element of surprise. So much for that.
By Robert Mayer on Friday, September 28, 2001 - 08:54 am:
I rather doubt anyone over the age of ten was surprised by this story. It is unnerving though. Unless of course it's deliberate, to get bin Laden to panic. Or maybe it's disinformation. Who knows?
By Bub (Bub) on Friday, September 28, 2001 - 09:32 am:
Maybe they're trying to track Bin Laden through his USA Today subscription?
By Jim Frazer on Friday, September 28, 2001 - 01:44 pm:
"Maybe they're trying to track Bin Laden through his USA Today subscription?"
hehe, cute. USAToday probably has a much better idea on his location than any of the international intelligence agencies do. Finding one man in a huge mountain range filled with caves and artificial tunnels has to be nearly impossible.
As for the media, I think they have really gone a little overboard with this. I don't mind seeing the Towers collapse 400 times a day since, well, this is history that we're witnessing and I think we should all experience it and remember it. However, it's the "YOU AREN'T SAFE!!" message that keeps showing up everywhere I look. TV, radio, newspapers, the internet... they all want to scare the crap out of you. Two nights ago they had a report on network TV where a person actually said "Well, some terrorists might have infected themselves with germ warfare agents and are right now walking amongst us". WTF? There is no evidence to even hint that this has happened. That was put on TV only to scare everyone and keep them glued to the TV set. They want to keep their ratings up, not report the facts to us. It makes me sick. My Mother calls me every other day or so at 2:00 a.m. so that I can reassure her that there is not Anthrax in her drinking water like the news seems to be suggesting. My girlfriend is afraid to drive to the mall because our local Fox affiliate led with a headline "Omaha, are we really safe?" and spoke about how tanker trucks filled with chlorine could be crashed into minimalls. It's pure sensationalism that doesn't need to be on the air. We watch the news for facts, not speculation and fear mongering.
For the Networks, this is the ultimate reality show. I guess bin Laden is the first one who is going to be voted off the island.