Photo by Selene Means. Wallace Salanpo holds a sign amidst other protesters.
I went for a walk in the woods behind my house. There were all kinds of nice surprises waiting for me.
11 March 2017. Saturday. See also on Flickr.
We have forgotten the true goal of terrorism. It can be difficult, especially in the aftermath of horrible events such as the one which occurred in Nice (or Dallas, or Orlando, or San Bernardino), as we prepared to bury the dead and do what we can to heal the wounded and care for all those who will never truly be whole again, that the goal of terrorism is not death. The goal of terrorism is in the name: terror; fear.
Every time we pick ourselves up and try and take stock of the damage and the pain, and allow ourselves to forget that what those who promote and execute these acts of violence are trying to generate is fear, we allow them to succeed.
Daesh would love to lay claim to the power to reach out and strike us there where it hurts the most. With every independent attack that is attributed to them, they have further proof that their reach is global, that they are able to infect our people with their poisons and use our people to hurt us. They take that power from our headlines, our speculating talking heads, our circumstantial analyses, and our political speeches.
Perhaps the man who struck out at the Queer Latinx community in Orlando justified his actions through the philosophy promoted by Daesh. Perhaps the man who drove a truck through a crowd in Nice came from Tunisia (where an overwhelming number of Daesh fighters hail from) and maybe he, too, justified his actions through their language.
That does not give Daesh the right to claim responsibility for their actions. Their power is not so great that they can reach across space and time and sow the seeds of their hate in the hearts of people who are thousands of miles away from them. These people are not molded by Daesh, they are molded at home, and their choices are their own, they can invoke Daesh in justification, but we do not have to believe them.
We can rob Daesh of their power. We have the power to make them lose the war abroad as they are losing the ground war in Syria and Iraq. Because when the perpetrators are dead—and they are all dead—there is no one left to speak for them. What we have to say about their origins and their motivations is as true as what Daesh has to say. When the Daeshi leadership learn about the attacks as we do, they are no more responsible for them than we are.
A generation of children already grew up with a boogeyman who lived in a cave in a desert most of them could not find on a map: his name was Osama bin-Laden. From September 2001 onward, children who were not yet old enough to comprehend what had happened in New York City and at the Pentagon knew his name and were afraid of him.
We can keep a new generation of children from knowing that fear. We can stop Daesh at the borders of their stolen territory, and their reach at the limits of their trained fighters and evil plots. We do not have to allow the words and tenets of their death cult to have the power of pandemic. We can acknowledge the violence it effects, and work to heal the wounds it leaves, and deny the infection a vector and the opportunity to spread.
Circumstance has returned me to a favored pursuit. I spent the last few months producing graphic art pieces for a 2D design foundations class at RISD, which had me stretching my creative limbs in the realms of pencil, paper, glue, and paint. The basics of design, other than practice, in the form of line, shape, space, color, pattern, repetition, and perspective were familiar strangers, and have since become intimate friends.
My cousin’s college graduation, and the prospect of a new commercial project, have returned me to the loving arms of photography. In the process I’ve developed a new (and psychologically more efficient) method of organizing my photography, and have extended my autodidact explorations into the open source software Darktable and studio lighting.
I’ve been playing with color editing and WB correction. Additionally I spent a significant quantity of time figuring out how to edit my little logo in Inkscape so that it would have the right kind of transparency when transformed into a watermark (as well as how to save a vector graphic into the right directory using the Terminal so as to be able to access the file in Darktable).
Much of the fun has just been in having a camera in my hands again. I said to Eric after our photoshoot, that really, all photographers have a fetishistic streak in them.
The photographer enjoys the simulated power of aesthetic creation. To take a photograph is to reproduce reality (badly) and to convey the aesthetic quality of a moment–I do not believe that the photographer has any real claim to the beauty of a photograph. Photographs can be either effective, affective, or forgettable. The power of the photographer is in that aspect. Though perhaps that is the entirety of what all artists can lay claim to. Words are beyond the individual command of one person, but placement is everything, in language.
In a roundabout way, I’m picking a fight with the concept that photographs are “made” rather than “taken”. The act of depressing the button that fires the shutter and the light captured in the split second is recorded–that is a process of taking a piece of reality and keeping it for yourself. That is the moment when someone’s soul is stolen–captured along with the light inside the camera. When you enter the developing room, or perhaps the editing software suite, when you begin cutting out bits of reality, adjusting the colors and contrast and the depths of reality, that is when you might begin to “make” a photograph.
I am not, however, a student of photography. I am a student of journalism. My approach to reproducing reality, to laying claim to the experience of the world, is to denounce ownership. My personal expectations are that should I have done my job well, the product looks like the world itself: recognizable, strange, complex, illuminated, and indistinct.
I also need to remember the most important rule of photography in the rest of my life: you can never capture the whole thing. The art of photography is the art of framing. It is pulling the audience along and standing them in a particular spot, and showing them something specific.
Another year, another set of thorny ethical questions to contend with.
Specifically, at what point does journalism turn into semi-independent PR?
One of the staples of any news-source relationship, be it the politician, the special-interest group, or the business, is the interview. Interviews rarely happen unless someone is trying to sell something. That something could be a new product, a new policy direction, or an event. When trying to avoid the tacit support of a particular view or party or product or person that comes with hosting them on your website/podcast/radio show/newspaper/op-ed page, is it the number of questions one asks? The kinds of questions? Do you need to treat polarized situations differently from more apolitical ones?
This year we’ve seen an increase in the number of people approaching us to come on to our news show and talk about their events.
On the one hand, I’m gratified, because if people are approaching us to come on our show, it must mean that we’ve started making an impact in terms of visibility. We’ve become a place you actually seek out to get a message to the people out in the world.
On the other hand, I’m perturbed by the notion that we are simply a platform to promote yourself on. Intellectually, I understand that that is what many people, when representing an organization or a specific interest, view the media as. Emotionally, I end up feeling cornered by the idea that our good name can be sullied and our ethical bearing compromised by people who are looking to promote their own interests.
The ethics of the situation are particularly clear, on the untried and somewhat microscopic level of the University because my fellow students have not yet become PR masters. They are clever enough to approach us to get pre-event coverage. But they are not clever enough to phrase their desire for publicity as an opportunity for my organization to get a scoop, or break a story.
They ask me, “Can we come on to your show and give a short blurb about our event tomorrow.” To which I am forced to reply, “No, you cannot. But you may come onto my show and have my anchors ask you questions, at which point we will allow you to inform our listeners about your up-coming event.”
So I’ve taken to phrasing that last bit, where they get to talk about their own stuff in terms of, “You approached us…” carefully wording it to allow our listeners the knowledge that this is, in a sense, a contrived media moment. We didn’t get paid, we are not endorsing them, but we will allow them airtime.
So far, I haven’t said a flat-out no to anyone. I think the really thorny ethical question will appear if ever I am approached by a group whose position I believe to be lacking in some kind of merit and am forced to ask should I air these people at all?.