Publish, publish and publish again
by Andy Maciver
The aftermath of the latest ISIL atrocity has, understandably, been focussed on the truly great issues of our time. Are we getting the fight against Islamic extremism right? Do we need to prioritise air strikes or ground troops, diplomatic negotiation or long-term, grass-roots change to encourage democracy? Or all of these?
Rather than adding to the wealth of comment on those issues, I shall instead make a short observation on a decision taken by the Sunday Herald to publish a photograph of a scene of murderous brutality in an ordinary Paris cafe on an ordinary Friday night.
This was the latest decision by a national newspaper to publish an emotive, graphic photograph. And like the decision to print the heartbreaking photograph of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying dead on a Turkish beach, and the decision to print the horrifying image of the final split-second of the life of US reporter Alison Parker, with the gun which killed her in the shot, it was the right one.
I understand the perspective of those who object to the reprinting of this. To varying degrees, they are concerned that it glorifies the action, that it creates unnecessary publicity, or that it is simply too distressing to see. For those reasons many media outlets have never published any of these images. But my view is that these issues need publicity, and that we should be distressed.
Aylan Kurdi is not the only child who drowned because his family took the decision to give him a better life on our shores, but he is the one we remember. He’s the one etched into our consciousness and he’s the one whose death changed the narrative on migration.
Alison Parker is not the only American killed by a gun that day, but she is the one whose death caused politicians on both sides of the aisle to think again about whether the 2nd Amendment is really being used for its intended purpose.
And the nameless citizens lying dead in pools of blood, surrounded by shattered glass and shattered lives, are a tiny minority of the people who died on Friday night. But any one of us could have been in that picture, and it should make those of us who want to win this battle for freedom and democracy question whether we are all doing what we can and should to deal with the menacing threat of ISIL.
These images are real. They happened. They are not a subjective interpretation – they are a precise portrayal of humanity, of murder, of barbarism. And if it takes such images to change for the better the way we deal with the migrant crisis, the way America tackles its gun problem or the way the democratic world attempts to deal with this new and most difficult wave of terrorism, then I say publish, publish and publish again.
The new Sunday Herald doesn’t always get its front page right, in my opinion. But last Sunday, there was no rolling of eyes from me. Just a nod of the head at a brave and noble editorial decision.