Media Responsibility for Imagery

All things outside of Burning Man.

Media Responsibility for Imagery

Postby Don Muerto » Mon Oct 27, 2003 10:10 am

I started this thread in response to some of the things said in the "bad burn" thread. I didn't want to sidetrack that discussion.

aforceforgood wrote:Saying that an image doesn't make someone desire that image reveals a complete denial of what all advertising is based on. So I won't even argue the point, because if someone is going to try and make that argument, they are divorced from reality, and it's unlikely my words over the internet will bring them back to it.

Broadcasting images that WILL engender a response from certain people is IMO irresponsible. YMMV.

Another stronger example to make my point; when KTLA was reporting on the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping and showed her frolicking in the water at the beach wearing a bathing suit, I felt that was similarly irresponsible and had even less to do with the story. I'm sure those images resonated with some pedophiles, and I hope they didn't inspire any kidnappings. Odds are they didn't, (hopefully) but that doesn't change the fact that it had nothing to do with the story, (it was a video of her at about age 7. So you could say it might help to identify her if someone saw her, but that's a stretch when there were plenty of more current photos of her.) and was therefore (I feel) reckless and irresponsible. This is a clearer example of what I mean when I say that tv shouldn't broadcast images of the fires.

To see is to desire, if the image is something you're wired to desire. That's how the human brain works.


I find AFFG's point of view interesting, but I almost totally disagree with it.

First, showing us an image does not create desire. 'Sexing' the image up and <u>creating desire for it</u> is what the advertising industry is all about. If it were as simple as showing a product, any idiot could do it. Packaging, presentation and context are what make images compelling in an advertising sense.

Your Elizabeth Smart example is also way off base. Let's start from the point where the family, presumably with advice from the LEO community, released that tape to the media. The media does not have the right to just steal images of people and broadcast them. Why would a family and the police/FBI knowingly stimulate legions of pedophiles by pumping pedo-activation fodder into the broadcast channels?

I am no expert, but I believe there are three main reasons that film and the other images of Elizabeth Smart were released.

1) To help witnesses ID the girl should she be seen. Static images of unknown people do less to foster recognition than a film of the subject does. The fact that she was 7 instead of 14 could simply reflect a lack of available film footage.

2) To make sure that the attention span of the media and the public remains focused on the missing girl. Without constant stimulus, the public eye moves elsewhere. There are interesting missing persons case studies which show that nearly identical crimes may become 'high-profile' or receive zero media attention. The crimes that become 'high-profile' receive more police attention and have a better chance of being solved.

3) Showing video and still images of the missing person 'humanizes' them to both the public and the perpetrator of the crime. It is a rare person that can kill another one without first psychologically distancing themselves from them, -usually by mentally stripping them of their humanity. War propaganda frequently portrays the enemy as monsters, animals or faceless thugs/huns/barbarians with the knowledge that this makes it easier for 'our boys' to blow holes in their bodies. Similarly, murderers often disconnect from their victims, by not allowing them to say their names or have a human identity. Showing Elizabeth Smart at play makes her a little girl having fun instead of an object that can be manipulated and used without remorse.

You make a *ton* of assumptions in your post, and this is the only one I partially agree with:
Broadcasting images that WILL engender a response from certain people is IMO irresponsible.


It is well known that responses, good and bad, can be elicited through imagery. Therefore the media must be responsible for the images they choose to broadcast. I am not sure that showing a burning home is a responsible thing to show, but I am not sure it is IRresponsible either.

You say:
Broadcasting images that WILL engender a response from certain people is IMO irresponsible.


Can we not show images of famine because it might elicit charitable response? Or is it only 'bad' responses that must be avoided? Who determines what is 'bad'? Who sits on this censorship panel? --Animal Farm indeed.

It seems possible that other firebugs might be inspired by such images, but I am not willing to make that assumption. It also seems possible that showing those images will increase the immediacy of the situation for people viewing the fires via the broadcast media, and will spread the feeling of catastrophe beyond the communities directly affected. This can have all sorts of beneficial effects such as charitable donation and Federal aid. I guess the question is, are there more arsonists or decent, concerned people watching those images?

Finally, (and philosophically):
To see is to desire, if the image is something you're wired to desire. That's how the human brain works.


Is it? Or does our desire create the image? If I look at a burning house and think "Those poor people! How can I help?" yet some firebug sees the same thing and thinks "Fire! FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!" -how can this be true? Your statement is self-contradictory vis a vis 'wiring' versus 'seeing.'

The image is in the mind, not on the TV or in the photo.

(sorry for the great length)
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Postby Markov Chaney » Mon Oct 27, 2003 10:32 am

My thoughts exactly, and put far more eloquently than I could ever hope.
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Postby Bob » Mon Oct 27, 2003 10:47 am

Cites?
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Postby Bob » Mon Oct 27, 2003 11:28 am

Senator Kefauver, holding up an E.C. comic:

“This seems to be a man with a bloody ax holding
a woman’s head up, which has been severed from
her body. Do you think that is in good taste?”

E.C. publisher William Gaines:

“Yes, sir, I do—for the cover of a horror comic.
A cover in bad taste, for example, might be
defined as holding the head a little higher so that
the blood could be seen dripping from it… .”

Kefauver:

“You’ve got blood coming out of her mouth.”

Gaines:

“A little.”

Image

http://www.americanheritage.com/AMHER/2001/05/innews.shtml
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Postby DE FACTO » Mon Oct 27, 2003 2:17 pm

Hey I'm part of the "right on club".

just had to do it.

Great thread move Don Muerto.
even though...........
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Postby blyslv » Mon Oct 27, 2003 3:14 pm

In the early 90s MC 900 Foot Jesus came out with a song about arsonists. It was very compelling, filled with powerful images.

"...I tip my can and I begin to douse..."

Everytime a station would begin to play it, there was a spike in arsons. The local fire chiefs pressured the stations not to play it anymore and it worked. That pissed me off.

It is the arsonist who decides to strike the match, not the image, not the person who shows the image. Radical self-reliance indeed.

The song also sparked some spoofs. MC 900 Foot Shatner

"...everybody stand back while I over act ..."

and MC 900 Foot Doughboy ...
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Postby Don Muerto » Mon Oct 27, 2003 7:52 pm

blyslv wrote:MC 900 Foot Shatner


*snorts*

Fuck I love Shatner, I have met the man and he is truly a funny and sharp individual.
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Postby Alpha » Mon Oct 27, 2003 7:57 pm

..and damn he can sing! Has anyone else heard Mr. Tambourine Man??
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Postby Flux » Mon Oct 27, 2003 8:02 pm

Alpha wrote:..and damn he can sing! Has anyone else heard Mr. Tambourine Man??

Truly a classic, Alpha, but really: It's no Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.
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Postby Kinetic II » Mon Oct 27, 2003 8:02 pm

Shatner singing? Oh please, what's next, praise for David Hasselhoff?

I'm glad this board doesn't have audio capabilities. If it did I'd likely get Shatner in the morning, Hasselhoff in the afternoon, and Yanni at night, with some John Tesh mixed in as "filler" material. BLEECH!!!!!
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Postby Flux » Mon Oct 27, 2003 8:02 pm

Kinetic II wrote:I'm glad this board doesn't have audio capabilities. If it did I'd likely get Shatner in the morning, Hasselhoff in the afternoon, and Yanni at night, with some John Tesh mixed in as "filler" material. BLEECH!!!!!

Maybe then people would quit whining about techno...
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Postby Don Muerto » Mon Oct 27, 2003 8:14 pm

Kinetic II wrote:Shatner singing?


Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Mr. Tambourine Man, & Rocket Man

Enjoy the greatness that is Shatner.
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Postby Lydia Love » Mon Oct 27, 2003 8:22 pm

Now *that's* the gift that keeps on giving.
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Postby foamin' at the mouth » Mon Oct 27, 2003 8:52 pm

Apologies in advance for longwindeness...just scroll on by....

"Is it? Or does our desire create the image?"

I wonder if a different question can be posed. "Does what we know about the creation or intent an image change what we see?" Maybe this seems obvious to some og you I am actually humbled by this conversation and question and have been musing about it for years.

Several years ago in collaboration with about ten other people, including scientists, medical anthopologists, artists, etc., I did an exhibition about the social, cultural and political implications of scientific and medical images in society at large. The exhibits and objects were intended to be commentary on how we are shaped and shape medicalized representations of the human body, and what they say about us as a culture in time. We exhibited everything from 16th wax representations from Florence to the Volvo billboard that used a fetal ultrasound to to exhibit that allowed you to projecte internal organs on your body as a refernce point.

One piece in particular almost cost me my job and caused me to question everything about my moral compass. It was something called "Pernkopf's Anatomy."

Pernkopf represented a paradox to me. Considered by some to be one of the greatest anatomists http://www.whonamedit.com/doctor.cfm/2031.html he was also an avowed NAZI. He was not merely a sympathizer but an active party member and was responsible for many good scientists losing their jobs and the imprisonment of communists and anarchists. His illustrators often put the SS insignia in their drawings although subsequnt editions eliminate those.

In 1996 two respected researchers issued a letter to most of large medical libraries in the world asking them to pull their copies of the texts (I think there were 7 in all) after discovering evidence that the cadavers used for dissection may have been concentration camp victims. Libraries did do this but most librarians I spoke with at the time (Chicago, UCSF, UCB,etc.) kept them available in their special collections. The publisher also stopped publishing the manuscripts.

The problem was that many, many doctors (nee surgeons) used Pernkopf's as their desk reference and some said they attributed saving lives to their ability to reference the drawings. (Pernkopf was used among other resons because his manuscripts recorded the variation within the human body...you are as unique on the inside as you are on the outside.)

When I proposed exhibiting the book with the question "Does what you know about the origins of the body depicted change how you see the picture" along with a story about what was in question. I chose this topic and the object actually because I had heard about it on NPR and then read several newspaper articles. I felt that if it was in the news it shouldn't only be the in the purview of cultural studies types and the media but that the general public should engage with each other around the issue. My choice caused widespread alarm among a small but very vocal group of people.
I consulted Jewish scholars, the young, ethnically Jewish members of my team and others. All of them felt I should display it (I lost sleep at the time about whether distance from the holocaust experience was shaping their opion). The Weitzman(sp) Institute took a nuetral stand.

But one very prominent individual told my boss that if we displayed the manuscripts we would be bombed by certain radical right wing sects of Judaism.

So the piece was cut from the show much to the dimay of myself and the team who had worked so hard. I having descended in part from Ellis Island Jews was branded by one individual at work a NAZI. Then a couple of things happened. Its was determined that the cadavers were probably not Jewish concentration camp victims but individuals executed for war crimes. Suddenly the most ardent against display lost interest. (I remained shocked...To be executed for war crimes in Austria at the time meant that there was a good chance it was due to your political beliefs- but I was told to bag it beccause there wasn't a large enough voice to speak for the dead Anarchist commies etc. and anyway a decision had been made.)

The second thing that happened was that in another area of the exhibit we decided to include a contemporary anatomy text--one that a medical student would use--this was in January of 2000.) The nueroscientist on the team and the most discerning individual was charged with identifying the appropriate one. He did his homework and determined the one being used by UCLA had the highest rating and was considered the standard against which all others were judged. I dispatched himn with 80 bucks to go buy it at UCSF, which he did.

But when he got back and we paged through it we discovered that many -over a third- of the illustrations were done in Pernkopf's lab by several of his illustrators and there was even an acknowledment of Perkopf on the face page.

What we did was display the book with the story of our own internal debate and asked people to reflect on our choice. The marginalized are most often the ones who become the representations and indeed even the objects of study.[/url]
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Postby Flux » Mon Oct 27, 2003 8:55 pm

Don Muerto wrote:
Kinetic II wrote:Shatner singing?


Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Mr. Tambourine Man, & Rocket Man

Enjoy the greatness that is Shatner.

Just listened to all three. Unbelievable.
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Postby DE FACTO » Mon Oct 27, 2003 8:57 pm

Flux! Your ok!.

Now I feel better.
even though...........
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Postby Flux » Mon Oct 27, 2003 8:58 pm

DE FACTO wrote:Flux! Your ok!.

Now I feel better.

Thanks!

(I don't know that I'd go so far as to say that I'm ok, but I'm not in any danger from the fire.)
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Postby Don Muerto » Mon Oct 27, 2003 9:15 pm

Interesting story foamin.' To answer your question:

Does what we know about the creation or intent an image change what we see?


I would argue that it does change what we see, by changing which desire(s) it interfaces with.

In your example, we might find Pernkopf's anatomy drawings technically superior and desire the image for those reasons. Assuming for the sake of argument that Pernkopf's intent was 'evil', our discovery of this fact may change what we desire about the images, -namely not to be associated with them and the evils of the Jewish Holocaust.

It seems to me that the changing views of Pernkopf's work has more to do with which of the viewers' desires the images become associated with than it does with the images themselves. After all, the images are static and unchanging despite their fluctuating moral attributions.
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Postby aforceforgood » Mon Oct 27, 2003 10:23 pm

blyslv, I take your point- the balancing act between freedom of speech and not influencing the jackasses of this world is an annoying one no matter which way it slices. You and hundreds, maybe thousands of others are inconvenienced by not being able to hear your song on the radio, while a select few are inconvenienced by having their homes burned down. Which is worse? I don't like having to live in a dumbed down world either, but unfortunately, that's reality.

I'm surprised no one has brought up the debate over hypothermia data that we have due to the nazi ss experiments. I see both sides of the debate, that to use that data tacitly encourages more experimentation using unwilling human subjects, and also that not using it makes the unwilling subjects sacrifices meaningless.

And if you're the one that data would save, does that change your opinion of whether the idealistic point that we should not "encourage" testing on unwilling human subjects outweigh the benefits of saving lives? Or is the question better phrased; Does using the data mean we endorse the way it was obtained? Will the data forever be tied to it's origin? How long does it take for the taint of the data's origin to wear off?

I tend to come down on the side of the practical; ie, saving lives. Yes, it's reprehensible that nazis put people in freezing water to see how long they lived, but does that mean I would choose to let someone die over my feelings? No.

At the same time, I understand this is a hot-button emotional issue for a lot of people, and I understand why they feel this way. If I have to choose one or the other, I'd just rather hurt their feelings than see someone die.
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Postby foamin' at the mouth » Mon Oct 27, 2003 10:48 pm

"I'm surprised no one has brought up the debate over hypothermia data that we have due to the nazi ss experiments. "

This may be a red herring but the Americans did similar experiments with Quakers and other consciencious objectors. They did them on the Great Lakes. Men were floated out there for days. Noone talks about 'em now but you can find old newsreels in some film archives.


The debate about NAZI science and medicine goes on.
Don Muerto, I'm thinking about your comments.
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Postby aforceforgood » Tue Oct 28, 2003 12:46 am

foamin' at the mouth wrote:"I'm surprised no one has brought up the debate over hypothermia data that we have due to the nazi ss experiments. "

This may be a red herring but the Americans did similar experiments with Quakers and other consciencious objectors. They did them on the Great Lakes. Men were floated out there for days. Noone talks about 'em now but you can find old newsreels in some film archives.


IMO, revealing some revisionist history is never a red herring- cites? Did they test them to death like the nazis did?
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Postby Bob » Tue Oct 28, 2003 3:51 am

C'mon, affg...

Can we get back to your rational basis, if any, for changing the nature of the 11:00 news to prevent arson?

Would more Area Boy Meets Barney! stories help?

And why does the Heidi Game come to mind?
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Postby foamin' at the mouth » Tue Oct 28, 2003 6:54 am

"cites?"

I'm pretty sure I saw the films as part of a Rick Prelinger project
http://creativecommons.org/getcontent/features/rick
http://www.prelinger.com/

I did find this
http://www.academy.umd.edu/publications ... ectors.htm

and this
PBS
http://www.pbs.org/itvs/thegoodwar/story.html

and on the NAZI hypothermia debates and NAZI science this poll

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/holocaust/ ... 2_yes.html
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/holocaust/experi02_no.html

a quote "[The Dachau hypothermia experiments were] conducted without an orderly experimental protocol [and] with inadequate methods and an erratic execution. ... There is also evidence of data falsification and suggestions of fabrication. Many conclusions are not supported by the facts presented. The flawed science is compounded by evidence that the director of the project showed a consistent pattern of dishonesty and deception in his professional as well as his personal life, thereby stripping the study of the last vestige of credibility. On analysis, the Dachau hypothermia study has all the ingredients of a scientific fraud, and rejection of the data on purely scientific grounds is inevitable."
--Dr. Robert L. Berger, New England Deaconness Hospital and Harvard Medical School
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Postby aforceforgood » Tue Oct 28, 2003 4:05 pm

Bob wrote:C'mon, affg...

Can we get back to your rational basis, if any, for changing the nature of the 11:00 news to prevent arson?

Would more Area Boy Meets Barney! stories help?

And why does the Heidi Game come to mind?


I've already stated my rational basis.

What is Area Boy Meets Barney!? Is that an SF thing? I'm in LA. Unfortunately.

And if your reference to the heidi thing is meant to say we have a right to know about the fires, I agree. My bone of contention is that an image of someone's house burning has less journalistic merit than say, a graphic of a map showing where the fires are. If that's not what you're saying, please elaborate.

It was interesting in my conversation with the KCAL newsroom guy that to him, covering this fire meant showing pictures of it. In other words, he had a television mentality first, and a reporter's mentality second. So to him reporting the facts was secondary to getting ratings. That's why I can't take too seriously the effort to "reform" TV news. The problem is inherent in the system.

The fact that people watch tv sitting down, with their eyes not moving, which tells your brain to go to sleep, is a tough one to overcome. So is the entrenched herd/moron mentality. Until I can convince the herd to demand that tv give them information, tilting at the 11:00 news windmill is largely for my own amusement, like playing a video game. If I happened to make a difference, that would be great, but I'm not holding my breath, and I'm not about to dedicate my life to it. The exodus away from the mindless drivel that is mainstream tv has started, ratings have dropped across the board, but there will always be more morons that thoughtful responsible people interested in hard news.
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Postby Bob » Tue Oct 28, 2003 5:30 pm

Again, if you've seen any studies indicating that TV footage of wildfires = higher incidence of arson, please let us know.

Otherwise, your opinions cannot be verified any more than Senator Kefauver's in the 50s.
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Postby PJ » Tue Oct 28, 2003 7:14 pm

On analysis, the Dachau hypothermia study has all the ingredients of a scientific fraud, and rejection of the data on purely scientific grounds is inevitable.



Well, crap--that means somebody will have to re-do the tests.

We could use those guys down at Guantanamo I suppose. How cold does it get there in the winter anyway?
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Postby aforceforgood » Wed Oct 29, 2003 12:23 am

Ok, I'll see if I can find any studies that prove the Earth is round while I'm looking, kay?
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Postby Bob » Wed Oct 29, 2003 2:10 am

Look --

It's like arguing that attending Burning Man de facto turns you into some kind of pyro.

You could argue or assume all you want, but coming up with a statistical relationship takes a bit more work. As an example, if you believe what you read lately about eplayans, they're all lily-livered sob-sister pacifists who couldn't [plonk] their way out of a wet paper bag with a sharp knife.
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Postby aforceforgood » Fri Oct 31, 2003 6:19 pm

Bob wrote:Look --

It's like arguing that attending Burning Man de facto turns you into some kind of pyro.

You could argue or assume all you want, but coming up with a statistical relationship takes a bit more work. As an example, if you believe what you read lately about eplayans, they're all lily-livered sob-sister pacifists who couldn't [plonk] their way out of a wet paper bag with a sharp knife.


Well, if that were what I was saying, then obviously I'd be wrong.

Since it's not, maybe I need to clarify what I have said. Which is that in some people, who already have some strange wiring in their heads, and get sexually excited by fire, the image of fire will increase the likelihood they will go set one. Blyslv said as much in his post, confirming through his actual direct experience that this is the case.

It's also a very obvious advertising principle, and I'm choosing not to take up the gauntlet thrown down by Bob to "prove" it, since I doubt I'd be able to change his mind no matter *what* data I presented, and I'd rather direct my energies towards other things.

For that matter, I'd prefer to live in your world, where people aren't inspired to go do stupid stuff just by seeing images of it (hmmm, brings to mind all those "Jackass" disclaimers... how many stories have we heard about kids getting hurt copying stunts they've seen? Lots. Would they have happened if the show hadn't broadcast those particular images? Probably. Kids will typically find some way or another to hurt themselves doing something stupid...). So if belief has anything to do with influencing reality, and I suspect it does, I won't try and change your mind. Unfortunately, in my world, people are dismaying easy to influence...

Here's a question for Bob- What authority or data would you be convinced by if they were to tell you that images do excite (not inspire) desire? i.e., you might be bored, and see a commercial for a movie, which excites you to go see it, rather than alleviating your boredom in any other number of ways.

Oh, and BTW, to clarify-

aforceforgood wrote:blyslv, I take your point- the balancing act between freedom of speech and not influencing the jackasses of this world is an annoying one no matter which way it slices. You and hundreds, maybe thousands of others are inconvenienced by not being able to hear your song on the radio, while a select few are inconvenienced by having their homes burned down. Which is worse? I don't like having to live in a dumbed down world either, but unfortunately, that's reality.


The "which is worse" question in my post was not rhetorical, smart-ass, or condescending- it was meant as an honest inquiry into how you view this slippery-slope free speech issue.
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Postby joel the ornery » Sat Nov 01, 2003 4:37 am

Kill your television.

That is all.

Now, get back to work.
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