After hastily writing a column based on a viewing, last Friday evening, of the WikiLeak video Collateral Murder of a shooting in Iraq, this writer delayed posting it early Saturday monring. In reconsidering the implications of what we had seen and what the event meant as Saturday progressed, we realized that our quick take on the topic had omitted two important aspects of our reaction to what we had seen.
It seems to this writer that the video portrays a news event that deserved far more extensive coverage and analysis than it got. Perhaps there was a big fuss and the fact that our only access to coverage was mostly limited to some talk radio programs and some quick scans of online websites, explains our assumption that it has passed practically unnoticed. Noting that American Journalism had fumbled away a major news story is becoming a major recurring theme in contemporary American culture (and our columns).
Movie reviewers value originality and if one movie echoes a previous effort that will usually be a part of the reviews of the new film. For instance when this columnist first saw "A Simple Plan" (the 1998 film directed by Sam Raimi), we noted as we watched the film that there were strong parallels with the classic movie "Treasure of the Sierra Madre." After seeing the film, we then read reviews and noted that some well known and respected film critics mentioned noticing the similarity to the classic award winning film from the late forties.
Watching the real life events portrayed in "Collateral Murder," this columnist got the strong impression that what he was seeing was a reality TV attempt to plagiarize a sequence seen in the commercial film "Apocalypse Now." We kept expecting to see the shot where Col. Kilgore (Robert Duvale) says: "Getcha a case of beer for that one!"
Pedestrians in Berkeley on Friday night, scurried past the video display with a remarkable level of lack of interest and of the ones who stopped to chat with the activists involved in the public event, the attitude, as perceived by this columnist, can be described as being equal measures of levity mixed with arrogant distain.
Imagine, if you will, that American newsmen covering the Nuremburg War Crimes Trials conducted "man in the street" interviews with German Citizens and got "So what?" responses. Would that have become a major news story?
So American Journalism scores the amazing achievement of committing (in baseball terminology) two errors at once. They miss the story behind the shootings, and then they also miss America's remarkable complacency about new war crimes.
Here, for what it's worth, is the inappropriate lighthearted and whimsical column that was written the morning after seeing the "Collateral Murder" DVD in Berkeley:
On the evening of August 20, 2010, in downtown Berkeley, activists from the World Can't Wait group showed the DVD titled Collateral Murder showing the WikiLeak footage of events which took place in Baghdad in July of 2007.
This columnist, who had only seen still photos from the footage and some commentary on the video, took the opportunity to see the DVD and talk to the activists and members of the public who stopped to look at the video.
Most pedestrians hustled past and seemed blase' about any need to consider the debate over the footage.
One young activist, apparently of high school age, lamented the lack of other concerned young people.
Two passersby were talking to a member of the World Can't Wait group and they informed the columnist that they were associated with Cal Berkeley in the capacity of currently or recently enrolled students.
The one who had debating experience projected an aura of amused distain. His amount of sympathy for the journalists who got shot in the footage being shown was about equal to the extent of compassion shown by the cartoon character Super Chicken, who often had to remind his companion, a lion named Fred: "You knew the job was dangerous when you took it, Fred."
The debater grumpily admitted that collateral damage during war was regrettable, but it was entirely within the range of tolerable numbers which could reasonably be expected under the circumstances.
His rather broad grin projected an image of frat-boy levity that reminded the columnist that Rush Limbaugh had described the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib as being on the same level as required at college fraternity initiation ceremonies.
That, in turn, reminded the columnist of the fact that the first time former President George W. Bush had his name mentioned in the New York Times was when they quoted him, in the late Sixties, as saying that the use of branding at the university he was attending was just a bit of college frat frivolity and of no concern to outsiders. This columnist has yet to determine how tolerant dedicated compassionate Christian conservatives are when it comes time to assess the morality of the old American tradition of playing the game of "human ashtray."