SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2007
Mobile Aesthetics & Social Movements: Thinkspace
12:30 p.m. – 3 p.m. Polycentric sessions, San Francisco Art Institute,
Lecture hall and classrooms
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“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: Word from Iraq”
was an multi-media exhibition of images and stories of soldiers serving
in Iraq. Online journals or milblogs were the primary source for both.
The exhibition explored the disparity between the representations of
the war by the media and the realities experienced by the men and women
“on the ground”. Soldiers have always been reluctant to
share their experiences – either for security reasons or because
they have no desire to relive the experience. Many argue that “if
you haven’t been there, you couldn’t possibly understand”.
They complain that the media misinterprets, misrepresents or distorts
what is actually happening. Milblogs were created by soldiers to address
such complaints. Ironically, what began as an effort to present a more
balanced or positive view is now considered a threat to security. In
a series of operational security directives, severe restrictions have
been placed on blogging by soldiers.
This paper explores the process rather than
the product of our research on the discrepancies between representations
of the war in Iraq by the media and the realities experienced by soldiers.
It focuses on audience reactions to being confronted with those realities
and seeks to determine if those reactions suggest a recognition of the
discrepancies – i.e. Do they blame the media for failing to keep
We are fed a diet of familiar images and impressions
that dominate print and broadcast coverage of war. These images help
us cope with its overwhelming complexity and emotional drain. They offer
reassurance, if not justification – a sense of order or purpose,
rather than order or purpose itself. It comes in the form of generalizations,
statistics, oversimplifications and narratives.
Clearly, support for the war has dwindled.
A CNN poll of 1,029 adult Americans on June 22-24, 2007, indicated that
over two-thirds opposed the war in Iraq. A year before a similar CNN
survey showed that 54% opposed the war. This compares to less than 30%
of the samples surveyed in March and April of 2003 who opposed the war.
According to a June 29, 2007 CBS survey, 77% of the American public
feel the war is going badly. Perhaps because they feel the war is
going badly, the American public has lost interest in the war. A series
of surveys by the Pew Research Center shows that interest has deteriorated
to the point where less than 30% of those surveyed claim to be following
the news of the war closely – down from 63% when the war was launched
in May 2003. Even more disturbing, among those who are most directly
affected by the war – college students aged 18-22, only 6.4% of
109 students surveyed by the authors (August 27-29, 2007) claimed to
follow the news of the war on a regular basis. Thus, opinions of the
war are formed on a paucity of information.