The quality of war-journalism vs the social media virialization
“War, war never changes…” Those are the opening lines of every Fallout game since 1997. A small, short, sweet and sour speech, masterfully delivered by the ominous voice of Ron Perlman. A speech deeply embedded in the current Pop Culture that briefly summarizes an unquestionable truth of humanity: we kill each other. Since the cavemen tribes of Altamira to the Nazi germany, Homo homini lupus est: man is a wolf to other man. And our digital era is no exception.
Syria is currently overrun by wolfs. Shattered to pieces. Demolished both morally and physically. But with the spoils of the Syrian Civil War, with every picture that is released in the “Western World” showing kids covered in blood and ashes creeping out of the smoldering ruins of their former houses, another war is being fought in the so called “civilization”. A media war.
The definition of what is “quality” and “acceptable” in war-news coverage is changing. People no longer want the traditional “war journalism”. They don’t need it. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have become far more efficient tools to narrate the facts of war -that cold and bloodied list of casualties and material losses that usually plagued the war correspondents reports- than a million professional journalist on the field. Why? Because through the social media profiles the ones speaking are, at the same time, victims and victimizers, soldiers and rebels, men-at-arms and civilians, the few who fire the bullets and the many who try to dodge them.
Now the “Western World” -like if we had more than one world in this itty bitty looney Earth- is daily updated on the bombings in Aleppo. A couple in New York discusses the “war damage” by looking at Instagram pictures of the besiege city of Qusayr. People on the Alexanderplatz in Berlin have lunch while listening, reading and seeing with their own eyes via Twitter, the opinions of those who live among grenades and mines in Homs. At the same time in Finland two businessman read a Facebook post that became viral, it belongs to a small teenager that plays the piano in the ruins of what not so long ago was the historical city of Palmyra.”World Heritage of Humanity” that we, the so called humanity, let it turn to rubble with many of its inhabitants inside. This is the new “social media” coverage of war. A raw, even savage, first person journal of those directly involved in the conflict.
Looking directly into the Sun
One could imagine that, among all this brutality so cruelly and unapologetically displayed, people will sensibilize and cry louder than ever for peace. Well, it’s not precisely working in that way. People instead of evolve a growing repulsion towards war, for being so directly in contact with its terror, is kind of “getting used to it”. And this is bad. The paradigm of what is quality war journalism and quality war media coverage is shifting from a human mindful approach to the conflict, the people, its causes and its consequences, to an “Instagram” approach of showing the “most shocking picture possible”. All in an desperate attempt done by the traditional media to surpass the virality of the images and testimonies spread worldwide through the social networks.
This means fewer deep, insightful journalistic pieces about the war in Syria. Less reflexion upon the causes behind the war. Less discussion upon its consequences. Less general understanding in the “civilized” world, of how and why, there is a bunch of syrians, kurds, turkish and other myriad of cultures, killing each other in the same blue planet where we eat our pizzas and go to the stadium.
In turn, this means that the general public is less informed. Less prone to pressure their authorities to do something. Less interested in their fellow men. Candy coated under the flashing spectacle of showing a child covered by dust and blood, looking with the thousand miles stare, a clear reminder for us the privilege ones, that this kid has gone through hell and back again. And it is true. The social networks images from war zones are powerful. But their are also empty. They shock, but they fail to compel us to do something. They lack the reflexion that good war journalism was so capable to inspire in the minds and hearts of people. It looks like, somehow, we have banalized war. We have turn the most atrocious of human behaviours into something akin to a selfie. Perhaps this is the reason behind the hundred of unsuccessful social media campaigns to solve the immigration crisis in Europe, to protect the historical monuments in Petra, to save the children from Aleppo from another bombing, to help the millions that die of famine in a wartorn and ruleless Angola.
Perhaps “Sharing” and “Liking” is not enough to solve all the problems in the world, the real ones at least. Perhaps we could do better with far less “information” and more reflexion and debate upon the stories and peoples we get in touch, digitally or physically. More actual political and military actions and less “virality”. More thinking and less “posting”. More quality in the way we talk about war, in the way we as a society, deal with the issue of violence. If it turns out to be an immutable true that war never changes, perhaps we could at least change the way we talk about it.
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