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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Photos aren't Biased, People Are

(Keywords and tags: , , , , , , in the first casualties are and )

There are people who can't look at these photos objectively. They were taken by photographer Yosuke Yamahata after the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, on display at the online 'Remembering Nagasaki' exhibit at the Exploratorium. The popular myth that this was necessary is so ingrained that some people react to the photos as if they were untrue - or worse, unimportant.

But they are what they are; a record of something that happened. They're just photos. They have no bias. Any message we get from these photos comes from us and our grasp of history. For some people, the very existence of these photos is somehow offensive. They'll look at them and tell you that they don't tell both sides of the story, that we had to drop the bombs, that we should focus on lives saved. To some, these photos demand a rebuttal.

But the photos make no arguments at all. They aren't words, they aren't graphs, they're just facts existing on their own.

I'm finding a similar inability to be objective today with the border conflict between Israel and Lebanon. People have become so polarized on the question of Israel's place in the world that people react to mere facts as if they're arguments for or against Israel. For some people, you can't mention israeli or lebanese deaths without either being pro-terrorist or pro-zionist. Put up a photo of a lebanese family blown all to shit and some moron's sure to ask you why you hate israelis. Do the same with an israeli family and another moron will ask what you have against arabs.

But they're just facts. Again, facts have no bias.

As the non-lebanese are evacuated, both sides will feel free to escalate the killing. Israel's bombing will step up as the land invasion moves forward. Hizbollah will retaliate more fiercely. Prejudiced opinions will become more entrenched, preconceptions will become more cartoonish, and people will become more polarized. If Israel commits war crimes (which may already be the case), they will be defended - just as abuse at Abu Grhaib was defended. If Hizbollah commits atrocities, Israel's invasion will be used to justify them.

And anyone who thinks both sides should just knock it off will be attacked as either a zionist sympathizer of a terrorist stooge. Once truth is seen as bias, reason becomes impossible.



Annie said...


ellSmall said...

The bias in photographs may not be in the image itself, but it is certainly in what the photographer chooses to show or not show.

BTW, it's not hard to detect your bias.

Wisco said...


Case in point...