The Loneliest Jukebox

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Slappy hanging

From Images of Empire to the Empire of Images

Whatever you make of the execution of Saddam Hussein, it didn't take long for the PR wheels to come off. Sky News found its diplomatic correspondent saying Saddam was the only dignified person in the room; John Prescott found it "deplorable" that the footage was caught on cameraphone.

Half a world away, some apparently equivalent cinematography was haunting the teaching profession (links here, here, here and - less connectedly - here). Since when did capturing foul behaviour on digital video make it that much worse than before? Certain assumptions were developed in media studies and feminist critiques of pornography about the harm caused by images. (Others debated the progressive political potential of imagery, but that's another story.) I'm not sure when it was, but at some point these ideas became mainstream.

Advocates for the victimised use such ideas to lodge their complaints in increasingly wounded tones. Even when the old brute Saddam gets happy slapped on the gallows, it's filming it that is deemed unacceptable. Recorded humiliation is a terrible thing. Coming up next, Celebrity Big Brother 5.



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