Class Blog Discussion

Multimediaites —

Some of you may have heard about the Wikleaks release of what NPR bloggers Frank James and Mark Memmott describe as “classified video of a 2007 collateral damage incident in which U.S. Army Apache helicopter crews apparently mistook Iraqi civilians and Reuters journalists for insurgents was made public by a watchdog group.”

Today’s NPR report as well as a link to the video can be found here.  Just so you know, the video is fairly disturbing and graphic.

Listen to the report and watch the video and weigh in with your thoughts on the role of images in this video as well as the role of whistle-blowing.

Steve

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15 Responses to Class Blog Discussion

  1. Danielle Kahn says:

    I think that if this video had been leaked earlier, the United States may have been able to get out of Iraq sooner. These images are not only disturbing because of how graphic they are but also because of how unnecessary it seems. Even though a few of the men in the group were holding what appeared to be weapons, they were not threatening and didn’t need to be shot to death. The addition of the hostility in the voices of the soldiers shooting over the radio recording makes it even worse.
    Whistle blowing is really important to democracy because it informs the public. Part of the reason why we were in Iraq for so long was because things like this were kept from the public. But part of it was also because the public didn’t chose to be informed. Videos like these at least need to be available for everyone to see.

  2. Nick Powers says:

    The video released by WikiLeaks is indeed quite disturbing and horrific to watch. Though taken at a distance from a camera in a helicopter, the images of innocent civilians (at that time thought to be insurgents) being shot and killed/wounded is a grim reality of how unaware even those meant to protect us can be. For two Reuters journalists to be shamelessly killed along with other innocent civilians, not to mention the wounded kids, provides you with a very chilling image with their bodies strewn about, one of which even seems to have been run over by a tank. The audio of the soldiers talking about “those dead bastards” and begging to continue shooting certainly does not help the integrity of the military in what they’ve claimed was a justified attempt at taking out perceived threats, especially with the two kids in the front seat being taken to an Iraqi hospital. The notion of “whistle-blowing” isn’t exactly used here being that the whistle is not blown until it’s too late; something that in the future will most likely be modified in the wake of so many innocent people getting killed for no reason. At least now, something like this, however tragic, can hopefully be taken as a lesson learned and more precaution will follow in the future.

  3. Elyse Horowitz says:

    Personally, I feel that really don’t know enough about what happens during battles overseas to know whether or not this video shows what generally happens when United States soldiers open fire on their opponents. To me, the images shown through the viewfinder of the American soldiers are not clear enough to determine that they were in a dangerous situation. I admit that I don’t know what it is like to be under the kind of pressure where one’s life is determined by a single move he or she makes.

    I think it is an extremely disturbing recollection of the unfortunate actions taken by soldiers, and should not be shown to the public. This video literally shows multiple people brutally losing their lives, and there is no reason that it should be put in a public forum such as youtube.com. Yes, it is important for the American people to know the situations of the war that soldiers from their country are fighting under. And yes, it has newsworthy value, because it is a shocking story of the death of innocent journalists, and it needs to be told. However, I don’t find it necessary to show this video to the general public. If it can be of use to anyone, it would only be military personnel and necessary government officials. Not only is publicizing this video disrespectful to the journalists who died and the soldiers who were doing the shooting, as well as their families and anyone else involved in the war, it also seems that it could be dangerous for future wartime endeavors.

  4. Gillian Ball says:

    In addition to the graphic nature of the video, what draws my attention to this is the fact that all these news sites are linking to the video itself. WikiLeaks may have been the whistle-blower in this case, but once it was leaked, the New York Times had a story about it online which included a link to the video. Are news organizations showing the video because it’s already out and they don’t want to be behind on news? Or are they acting as whistle-blowers too, and feel that everyone should be aware of the happening?

  5. Alex Tillotson says:

    I agree with the points made above, and I also think that the video is very disturbing. I don’t think that it’s necessary to show the whole thing, but I think that because it is the internet, people can choose what they want to see and what they don’t want to see. Therefore, I think that if I had to make the decision, I’d provide it to my readers so they could see it, but provide a disclaimer so that they knew what they were getting themselves into. I think that in terms of whistle-blowing, there are always going to be people who want to get paid to leak a story. The person who gave this video to WikiLeaks brobably got paid for it, and i don’t think there will ever ba a lack of people who are willing to sink to new lows just to get something out there, especially if it benefits them financially.

  6. I found this video really compelling to watch, the long text introduction framed the images well, giving the viewers context for the shooting. The presentation is clearly framed on the premise that the Iraqis who were shot were innocent victims of the U.S. military.
    I think such videos should appear in the mainstream media periodically to remind the public of the human cost of being at war. However, such images should be distributed in moderation so that the public does not become desensitized to them.
    Whistle-blowing is one of the most important functions of the news media. It is impressive to see the courage of the journalists who work to make known information that the government would much prefer to keep secret.

    The most memorable part of this video is when you hear one of the soldiers say, in response to the fact that two children were injured in the firing that, “Well its their own fault for bringing their kids into a battle,” it exemplified the dehumanization of the Iraqi people within the U.S. army.

    Watching the video reminded me the video game Call of Duty, because the soldiers are shooting from helicopters, the people they are shooting don’t seem as real. They are just targets in the scope, with extra points for clean shots

  7. Dave Brinch says:

    We discussed this same video in my Journalism Ethics class, and we came up with some interesting questions. Is it ethical to show such a disturbing video? I believe it is, because I think it is giving the viewer what they need to know. We also found it interesting that there were shortened and lengthened parts of each video, and that most news organizations just showed the clip of the journalists getting shot, or froze the footage right before it. While I applaud Wikileaks for giving the public what they should know, I think the main reason they did it at this time as opposed to 2007 was go generate more hits and followers. Wikileaks acted as the whistleblower, but I feel that they did it for the wrong reasons. We watched an interview of the founder of Wikileaks and the entire time, he was telling viewers how to log on and get the unedited version, while pretty much ditching the hosts questions about how this video affects what is going on with the American military in Iraq. I think this is a big issue for not only America, but journalism in general, and how multimedia affects whistle-blowing.

  8. Mike Gardner says:

    While disturbing to watch, I think leaking videos like this is extremely necessary to society. It may be uncomfortable to watch, but it accurately depicted a part of war that too often gets covered up. Americans are relatively ignorant to what goes on in war, partly because graphic details get censored. This is a rare opportunity for people to see what actually goes on.
    As for whistle blowing, it may very well have been a case of news outlets linking to this for the sake of sharing in the story, to get some credit. But I think what’s more important is to appreciate that this video got that many more viewers because of it. Whatever the intentions of the news outlets, holding the government accountable is a centerpiece of journalism and by leaking the video journalists did just that.

  9. Personally, graphic videos and images really disturb me and as an average news consumer I’d rather not see them. However, I think its important that pieces like this exist, to bring to light some of the things that are happening on the other side of the world. As someone else mentioned,it doesn’t provide a complete or balanced perspective, but it adds to the information that we already have about the war.

    I’m sure we’ve all heard about TV news footage’s impact on the public opinions of Vietnam, and this is the latest technology’s version of that. It just may prompt more discussion because the nature of technology today is that it can be played repeatedly.

  10. The part that disgusted me the most about this video was actually not the actual shooting; it was the commentary made by the soldiers. They made it sound like they were playing Modern Warfare or some other war video game rather than dealing with real people and real life or death situations. We discussed this video both in another class and outside the classroom; it’s scary to think that because the soldiers have been there for so long and have been shot at numerous times, they’ve gone into “kill or be killed” mode. They don’t seem to consider who they’re shooting at for longer than 3 seconds, and have gone on to shoot civilians, and in this case, innocent journalists. I think if anything this should be taken into consideration for a sooner departure from Iraq, for the sake of innocent lives and the soldiers humanity.

  11. Becca Babin says:

    I think the release of this video shows how important whistle blowers are in our society. The government tries to conceal so much information because it makes their job easier; however, that isn’t in the best interest of the public. When incidents like this are concealed, Americans loose the informed consent that is crucial in a democratic society. Though images like this are disturbing, it doesn’t mean the public shouldn’t see them. If this is how little it takes to justify killing a group of people and shooting at children, the U.S. army should reconsider its policies. The people clearly were not a threat to the helicopter, even if they had been actually carrying weapons.

  12. Rebecca Babin says:

    I think putting video to this report made it so much more disturbing. Of course, hearing or reading a report about this event explains the details of the event, but the deaths can become faceless…more like numbers or statistics. Seeing and hearing what actually happened on that day, and how easy it was to for the military to confuse innocent by-standers with insurgents, was horrifying.

    I think whistle-blowing is very important because it keeps people in check. When people know they are accountable to someone, it will hopefully influence them to make better decisions.

    In defense of the military here, I do think that they acted way to quickly and without proper understanding, but they are engaged in war. Acting quickly is how they save lives, and they were convinced that the reporters were carrying weapons.

  13. bittym87 says:

    I don’t see the harm at all in making a video like this available for people to see if they want to see it. Gruesome though it may be, journalism is all about reporting what happened, and in this multimedia age, it’s natural that the ugliness in the world is going to inevitably captured and paid forward. When this kind of thing reared its ugly head last year in Karen List’s Ethics class, the conclusion we reached is that a video like this needs to be made available but with a warning. Though we must be sensitive to the families of the victims, I don’t see this footage as doing harm to those families and the gravity of the atrocity is far more important to convey.

  14. Maura Anderson says:

    This video was definitely compelling, and provided an insight into the workings of the U.S. Military. I think it is important to remember, however, that these soldiers were only taking orders. We cannot know what it is like to sit in a helicopter and decide whether a situation warrants killing people or not, how hard that decision is to make, and the emotional repercussions of such decisions. In the military they teach you to dehumanize the enemy – and for good reason. A normal person would find it very difficult to kill someone else without very good justification for it. And the comments of the soldiers showed the act of dehumanizing pretty well. The truth is, the soldiers were simply doing their job. They made the wrong call, yes – they mistook journalists for insurgents carrying weapons. But they called up to their superiors, asked for instructions, waited for instructions, and then carried out those instructions.

    Whistle-blowing is critical. Without it, we cannot know the actions of the government or military that we should. But you have to take a video like this with a grain of salt – how much did they edit out? Did they edit out anything important?

  15. Alex Holden says:

    I agree with the last post for how the most disturbing part of the video was the commentary. It honestly reminded me a lot of the movie, District 9. In fact, the entire video seemed like something you would see in the movie theaters. I had to remind myself numerous times that this was non-fiction.

    Once I had that in mind, the non-challantness of the commentary really stood out to me. There was something very creepy about these soldiers talking about the situations. For example, “Roger, that’s a negative on the evac of the two, ah, civilian. ah, kids to, ah. Rusty they are going to have the JPs link up.” The soldiers are talking about the death of two children, and you would think, by the tone of their voice, they were giving a weather report on FOX.

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