We whitewash violence and brutality in America.
We constantly fail to acknowledge the atrocities of war, the real side of violence on our streets, and the grave human rights abuses that our own government is committing.
According to the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project, from April 2009 to June 2010 there were nearly 6,000 reported cases of police misconduct across the country, and a staggering 332 fatalities were linked to cases of police misconduct.
Yet, how many times have you seen a picture of a bloody victim of police violence? Probably never.
Here’s one small example.
Just last week, a police officer in Hawthorne, California shot and killed a dog, after it jumped out of a car and ran over to its owner, who, according to police, was being detained for apparently playing music too loudly from his car.
Despite the appalling actions of the Hawthorne police, and cell phone video of the incident that went viral, it still took several days before the mainstream media paid any attention, and then it edited out the real-world consequences of that police brutality.
But we aren’t just whitewashing police brutality in America, we’re whitewashing the atrocities of war too.
Think back to the beginning days of the Iraq war.
While the corporate media was just fine with showing us the fireworks-like bombs lighting up the skies over Baghdad, they completely ignored the horrific images and footage of the Iraqi corpses that lined the streets of Baghdad and the surrounding areas.
As Amy Goodman points out in the video production “Independent Media in a Time of War” by the The Sanctuary for Independent Media, footage of Iraqi casualties was showed all over Europe, but the “true face of war” was censored by corporate media here in the United States.
In the video, she talks about a piece by the Wall Street Journal, which compared coverage of the Iraq War by CNN, and CNN International.
On the day that Saddam’s statue was torn down, CNN only covered that issue. But on CNN International, while they did cover the tearing down of the Saddam statue, they also showed the grim images of injured and dead Iraqi citizens in a split-screen view.
And while Bush’s atrocities in Iraq were blocked here in the United States, so too were the things that the Bush administration was doing to suspected terrorists at the same time.
Despite now knowing that waterboarding was a common practice used by U.S. officials, no American media covered the story for a very long time.
In 2008, in an effort to bring the brutal waterboarding interrogation practice to light, Vanity Fair journalist Christopher Hitchens subjected himself to a real-life waterboarding session, hoping that his experience would help Americans to understand the human cost of our government’s harsh tactics.
Prior to the release of Hitchens’ video, the majority of Americans didn’t know how inhumane and tortuous waterboarding was.
But after Hitchens’ video went viral, and the pain and agony he endured was visible to the American public, the nation’s collective consciousness began to change.
And while the practice of waterboarding may “officially” have been stopped by the U.S government, another just as inhumane and tortuous process took its place at Guantanamo Bay, and once again, our corporate media is white-washing it.
Since February of this year, inmates at Guantanamo Bay have been hunger-striking, in protest against their ongoing detention. Most of the prisoners have never even been charged with a crime, and half of the remaining population of prisoners have been cleared for release by the U.S. government.
There are well over 100 inmates participating in this hunger strike, and while their protest is entirely peaceful, the response by Gitmo officials, and the federal government, has not been.
Officials at Gitmo have been force-feeding the hunger-striking prisoners. They’ve also been using procedures known as “forcible cell extractions” to remove the prisoners from their cells in order to force feed them.
“Force-feeding” doesn’t sound all that horrific. And, since the media has barely mentioned the Gitmo hunger strike and force-feeding story, Americans are largely clueless about it.
That’s where actor and former rapper Mos Def comes in.
Mos Def shows us the way we are force-feeding prisoner at Gitmo in a YouTube video released yesterday by the human rights charity Reprieve.
While the images in the video are disturbing to say the least, Americans need to see and understand just what’s happening at Guantanamo, because the mainstream media isn’t going to show what’s really going on anytime soon.
In the video, Mos Def is shackled and tied down to a chair, just like Guantanamo inmates are. He then has a tube inserted through his nose, into his stomach.
While the tube is being inserted, Def is visibly in a great deal of pain and agony, as his eyes water and he coughs several times.
As Def prepares to have the procedure done a second time, he can be heard saying, “This is me, please stop, I can’t do it anymore” and then breaks down and begins to cry.
While U.S. officials claim that force-feeding is perfectly legal and doesn’t qualify as torture, it’s quite clear just how painful, inhuman and immoral the practice really is.
President Obama has the power to stop this painful force feeding practice, but has so far failed to do so.
Just yesterday, a federal judge ruled that she has no power to order the U.S. military to stop force-feeding Guantanamo inmates, but said that President Obama, as commander-in-chief, “does have the authority to address the issue.”
Judge Gladys Kessler went on to note that the force-feedings of detainees has been condemned by the international community, and labeled a violation of medical ethics and human rights by a large number of groups and organizations, including the United Nations, which has labeled the practice as, “a painful, humiliating and degrading process.”
Back during the days Vietnam, it wasn’t until the media opened its eyes to what was happening on the frontlines of the battlefield that Americans began to truly understand for the first time the atrocities that were taking place. That turned public sentiment against the war.
As Marshall McLuhan once said, “Television brought the brutality of war into the comfort of the living room. Vietnam was lost in the living rooms of America—not on the battlefields of Vietnam.”
And while the footage coming out of Vietnam was horrifying and gruesome, it was important for the American people to see it, so that they could speak out against it.
But somehow, between the 1970’s and today, the media has lost its ability, or willingness, to show Americans the horrors of war, and the realities of violence.
Americans need to wake up, call out the media, and open their eyes to the violence and brutality in the world today.
Only then will public sentiment against the horrors of war and reality of violence be felt in Washington, D.C.