When the press reported the extrajudicial killing of Osama Bin Laden in February, they were restricted to stock images and archive footage, in their reporting.
Fleet street were left to indulge their sense of humour and ego’s with their headlines rather than use of images. The Sun in their usual crass and low wit form used “Bin Bagged”. In New York the Post went with “GOT HIM!” and the Guardian, as is usual asked a question, “But how could he hide for so long?”
When reporting the death or capture of a wanted person the British tabloids are renowned for showing little mercy in the destruction of any possible good memory of the person by their family. or any defense that may have been put in a court of law had they been put to trial in a civilized manner for their ‘crimes’.
When given the chance however the Press will gladly splash their front pages with gore and gloating.
When Gathafi was killed, in what his supporters will attempt to claim was either a blaze of glory as he went out in battle.
Or as some rebels claim cowering on his knees after being beaten into submission and executed. The papers went on a feeding frenzy, covering their papers in blood, humiliation and bravado. The Sun, ever solemn in its reporting⸘, splashed with “That’s For Lockerbie” seeming to claim responsibility for the event, as the Sun is all powerful and nothing happens without its knowledge or say so⸘
The New York Post another from the News Int stable, claimed an American link with its claim of “Khadafy Killed By Yankee Fan”
Most obvious in the coverage is the free use of death images. Many of the papers used images which were of Gathafi still alive but visibly beaten and very close to death. The major exception to this in the UK is of The Mirror, who printed an image of the despot dead on a mattress.
The Sun’s photographer sent to get images for the follow up stories, spoke of his thoughts about capturing images of himself and Gathafi in a blog post on his site, at the end he asks “I keep thinking I should have had my picture taken with the Colonel himself, but would that have been wrong?” Why would it be wrong to have an image of himself smiling net to the dead dictator but not wrong for the paper to gloat over his death on the front pages?
Is it really justified, in the name of showing justice to be done, to display the macabre and brutal end of a man in a judgement against his actions without trial. Why in the act of murder when the act is done from our side, in the name of justice we have no qualms about publishing the gruesome result, about glorifying vengeance, whilst defaming the others for attempting to do the same. The media particularly the red top/tabloid press, engage in extreme hypocrisy on a nearly daily basis. But none more so when it comes to the reporting of war.
Samuel Johnson has had the popular presses number for some time: “Among the calamities of war may be jointly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages.” (The Idler, 1758)
“In war, truth is the first casualty,” attributed to Aeschylus (525BC – 456BC).