Thursday, May 03, 2012

This week in end-zone performance

Spring is here, spring is here, and what better way to welcome another term of journalism history than ... the return of the frontpage political cartoon!

After a fashion, I mean. Photo manipulation is a timid cousin of the real thing, and until people stop using it for symbolic handshakes between city and suburbs or Town and Gown, it's never going to get its own Pulitzer category. But an old-fashioned editorial elbow to the chops -- that just takes you back to the days when press barons stalked the earth.

But could it be only a year ago that the demand from the Murdoch-influenced* press was ... how's that again, Boston Herald? He's supposed to spike the thing?

 Just when the nation seemed to have fallen in love all over again with the gutsy, decisive leader in the Oval Office, the old Barack Obama was back again, refusing to release the photos of a dead Osama bin Laden because they might be inflammatory.

It’s not that we have a pressing need to look at bin Laden’s head blown open as we sip our morning coffee. But why is this president forever second guessing how the rest of the world, particularly the Muslim world, will react? Brave Navy SEALs gave the murdering bastard exactly what he deserved and the rest of the world should know that too. The message clearly ought to be that you mess with the United States, you kill innocent civilians and sooner or later we’ll get you. There is a price to be paid.

Well, yes and no. That's yes, as in everybody's entitled to an opinion, and no, as in "then why do people leave comments like this on news stories?"

OBL cost this country a couple trillion dollars.  It's a major pain to travel.  Some stranger gets to fondle my crotch at TSA checkpoints in the airport. [In] light of all that, I think I should be allowed to see that scumbags brain matter. Release the pictures Mr. President.

In that light, it's interesting to look back to 1946 and the execution of Nazi leaders at Nuremberg. Rather than random spikes of the football (or whatever those crazy college kids did at the time), editors Viewed With Concern and Pointed With Alarm at purported rumors that straw dummies had been hanged instead. Here's the Detroit News:
All of this could have been foreseen by anyone familiar with the traditional circumstances in which dozens of such fantasies have become imbedded in popular superstition; and it was, in fact, foreseen by many, speaking for the American press, who argued fruitlessly for the widest possible publicity for the hangings, against exactly the possibility which has now materialized.

And if you recall the brief bursts of outrage over the news that Bin Laden's remains had received some religious attention before disposal, you'll be happy to know that Col. McCormick's Tribune found a Vatican source to point out that whoever ordered cremation for the Nazis had "committed a sin of a certain gravity."

That's really what I like most about the annual chance to indulge in the history course. In a world heavily populated by people who like to proclaim that the Intarwebs have changed everything, J-history is our license to ask: Then why is still 1942 when I turn on the TV?

* Edited to reflect a note from regular reader Garrett, who points out that the Herald is no longer a Murdoch property, having been sold by Murdoch to his then-publisher.



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