Saturday, October 07, 2006

Why Be Accomplices?

Okay, what's up with the New York Times? They may pose as critics of the White House, but on digital rights they seem to be playing right into the administration's obsession with regulating computer-based communication by associating it with terrorism and child molestation. Yesterday's story "Anti-U.S. Attack Videos Spread on the Internet" might seem little more than propaganda to those who don't get beyond the lurid headline, which topped the online version of the paper, and even to careful readers who make it all the way to the predictable end. It's like the whole Judith-Miller-Weapons-of-Mass-Destruction thing all over again.

Luckily, buried in the article, you hear voices that wonder whether the focus of the story on jihadists using distributed computer networks is appropriate, given that these practices are also done by U.S. soldiers themselves. After all, U.S. men in uniform are posting combat footage from firefights and building explosions. (PBS also ran an interesting piece about soldiers videos from Iraq on MediaShift.)

Russell K. Terry, a Vietnam veteran who founded the Iraq War Veterans Organization, said he had mixed feelings about the videos.

“It’s unfortunate there’s no way to stop it,” Mr. Terry said, even though “this is what these guys are over there fighting for: freedom of speech.”

As the article also points out, it is currently the private sector regulating this content, so that the government doesn't need to do more than offer tacit approval.

“It results in a continued trivialization of combat and its effects,” Mr. Wawro added, “but no one feels completely comfortable saying, Don’t do it.”

YouTube does feel comfortable saying so, however, as does Google Video. Both have user guidelines that prohibit the posting of videos with graphic violence, a measure that spokeswomen for each service said was violated by many of the Iraq videos.

Julie Supan, senior director of marketing for YouTube, said the company removed videos after they were flagged by users as having inappropriate content and were reviewed by the video service.

In an e-mail message, Ms. Supan said that among the videos removed were those that “display graphic depictions of violence in addition to any war footage (U.S. or other) displayed with intent to shock or disgust, or graphic war footage with implied death (of U.S. troops or otherwise).”

Of course, I was a kid during the Vietnam War. I can tell you that it was precisely the broadcast of such violent and graphic images of the war that contributed to the end of the occupation by U.S. troops. To pull them from online video sites with a broad mandate is to stifle many legitimate discussions about the costs of battle.

In other news, the NYT also connected conservative pundit Michelle Malkin to their coverage of YouTube censorship, astonishingly with the epithet "Filipina firecracker." Apparently Malkin has now posted her own YouTube video to protest how the anti-occupation videos that the NYT is scandalized by are allowed but her own anti-jihadist video castigating such footage has been pulled. In fairness to YouTube, I've watched many of Malkin's videos. There's often pretty racist, particularly about her blanket category "young Muslim males."

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home