Show the body bags. Show the wounds. Show the carnage.
What if we start treating the casualties of war on American civilians within our borders the same way we treated casualties of foreign wars?
American troops have been sent into harm's way many times since 1945, to Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq and suffered deaths in action. American public opinion became a key factor in all three wars, and in each one there has been a simple association: as casualties mount, support invariably erodes. "Support drops when they start seeing the body bags". Most of us still remember that President George W. Bush administration have apparently taken this vivid expression literally. The military has worked enterprisingly to keep Americans from seeing pictures of body bags or flag-draped coffins coming from Iraq in the hope that this will somehow arrest the decline in support for continuing the war.
The Vietnam war is the best argument to start showing the graphic images of the current mass shootings carnage in the US. Protests didn't start at the beginning of the Vietnam war. Like with Iraq war, the Americans were led to believe that it would be an easy and quick war to win. However, once body bags returned to the US, and many of them over short periods of time, the protests began. The hippy movement also started preaching love not war. In addition even war veterans took part in the protest. Some rich and affluent people were able to dodge the drafting (Donald Trump deferred draft 5 times) however the poor were not able to. They protested through burning or tearing their draft papers. At one point 572 soldiers were killed within a week. The protests only increased over time. People thought that the male youth were being lost on this war. The media also played an important role. They showed exactly what was going on in the war with the real footage. It gave the American citizens the opportunity to see what was really going on.
A medic tends to soldiers during the Vietnam War. (National Archives)
"The Terror Of War," "The Napalm Girl," the "photo that ended the Vietnam war." On June 8, 1972, Associated Press photographer Nick Ut took a photo of 9-year-old Phan Thi Kim Phuc showing the raw impact of conflict underscored that the war was doing more harm than good. It also sparked newsroom debates about running a photo with nudity, pushing many publications, including the New York Times, to override their policies. The photo quickly became a cultural shorthand for the atrocities of the Vietnam War and joined Malcolm Browne’s Burning Monk and Eddie Adams’ Saigon Execution (below) as defining images of that brutal conflict. When President Richard Nixon wondered if the photo was fake, Ut commented, “The horror of the Vietnam War recorded by me did not have to be fixed.” In 1973 the Pulitzer committee agreed and awarded him its prize. That same year, America’s involvement in the war ended.
As we can see there are valid historical examples supporting publishing the images from the current domestic war against society fought by ammosexual minority but waged by NRA on behalf of the gun makers of America, and their deadly businesses stockholders. American politicians are not squeamish to count the NRA's money, the "ordinary people" stay conveniently ignorant that their retirement fund might be profiting from the death of over 33,000 people in America every year. So, why can't we show bloodied corpses?
How graphic is too graphic when covering contemporary mass shootings in America?
Al Tompkins is The Poynter Institute’s senior faculty for broadcasting and online. He has taught thousands of journalists, journalism students and educators in newsrooms around the world. Here is an excerpt from his extensive trial to answer the question:
Within minutes of the school shooting at Parkland High School in Broward County, Florida, video of the shooting, including shots and screams flowed online. Graphic video of a bloody body gave a hint of the horrors that would unfold. Another student snapped photos while crouched in a classroom while another recorded SWAT officers herding children out of an auditorium. I am not linking to those images here. You can find them easily if you want to.
We have been here before. So many times. And have to have the conversation again about:
How much to show?
How often to show it?
If we don't show it on TV are the guidelines different for online?
Maybe, we could argue, that we should not shield the public from the violence. If the public, if elected officials saw the images as they really are, maybe we would have a more serious conversation about gun violence.
Or maybe, we should argue that showing the graphic images rewards the shooter and encourages others. It is predictable as the sunrise that this shooting will be followed by a wave of threats that schools around the country will endure in the next week. It happens after every widely covered mass shooting, experts say.
Without a doubt one of the debates that will begin by the time you read this is whether journalists should name the accused shooter. Well-meaning journalists will no doubt argue that naming a suspect rewards that person with some sort of celebrity status.