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Note the distinctly American perspective.







Subjectivity, Mediation, & Violence

A
ll photography is problematic in the sense that many viewers accept what is represented as objective truth. Of course, as Michael Anderegg notes, "The point always to bear in mind about media is that they mediate: a representation of war-or of any other human experience-is never the thing itself."4 Susan Sontag notes that photography combines two contradictory qualities: an "in-built" objectivity and an inevitable point of view.5 Photojournalism is even more problematic because any awareness of subjectivity, of mediation, is diminished because of the perceived impartiality of professional journalism. Thus much of the ideological elocution and cultural symbolism are cloaked in an aura of objectivity.

Siegfried Kracauer writes in Theory of Film,

"Everybody tends to believe that pictures taken on the spot cannot lie. Obviously they can. Assuming a film passed off as a neutral documentary does not include scenes staged for the purpose in mind but confines itself, as it should, to rendering reality pure and simple-there is, however, no way for the spectator to make sure whether he is getting his money's worth-yet it may feature certain aspects of a given object at the expense of others and thus influence our approach to it. The actual shots are of necessity a selection from among possible shots."6

Invariably the issue is what is not seen rather than what is seen. Photographs cannot articulate context. The decision to include or exclude certain individuals or objects is often ideologically motivated. Bruce Cummings, discussing this inherent and inescapable lack of context, writes that each photograph "is a mobilization of bias."7 Sontag echoes this when she argues that a photograph is not a record of what happened; a photograph "is always the image that someone chose; to photograph is to frame, and to frame is to exclude."8

This framing, this subjectivity, is naturally a part of television news broadcasting. Television news, however, by associating itself with professional journalism, treacherously represents itself as "objective." Television news is complicated by other factors as well, resulting in interpretation that is often unsophisticated and one-dimensional. To begin with, television must report all of its "news" within a strict timeframe (CBS expanded its evening news broadcast from fifteen minutes to thirty minutes on September 2, 1963, becoming the first network to do so). Reports are necessarily brief. The result is fragmented presentation of dynamic images rather than coherent analysis. Associations are made between these fragmented "stories" that emphasize relatedness rather than relevance. As Hallin argues, television, which "forces much more of the news into the unity of a story line-and therefore of a world view," has a penchant for ideology.9 This phenomenon is fundamentally linked to the presence of the television news anchor, a person whose integrity and moral authority enable them to guide viewers through the events of the day, often by making connections for the viewer and by providing neat little summaries tied to a specific perspective (during Vietnam, the American policy perspective). One of television's defining characteristics is that it communicates symbolically, frequently within the context of ideology. In other words, television "deals not so much with issues as with symbols that represent the basic values of the established political culture."10 Anderegg argues that each night Vietnam was presented as "a tactile video-audio construct, a tight matrix of specific, easily recognized signs."11 Furthermore, television (whose primary function during the Vietnam era was entertainment) elides the distinction between news and entertainment, creating the admixture "infotainment." The aggregate result is that television news provides brief, "entertaining" segments that are presented to the viewer without context or critical analysis, the subtext of which is unavoidably ideological.




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Introduction

Subjectivity, Mediation, & Violence

The Resiliency of the Establishment

The Sway of Consensus

Ideology as Narrative

Technology & Morality

Conclusion

Endnotes

Works Consulted