By Yoichi Shimatsu
Exclusive to Rense
In response to skeptics of the Las Vegas massacre who claim it was a false-flag operation involving crisis actors because news photos, online images and social media have not shown realistic gunshot wounds caused by high-velocity munitions, I must here state that sort of argument arises from a severe ignorance of media ethics about the release of images of graphic gore, as discussed below.
The doubters have noted that patients released from hospital soon after the Oct. 1 shooting are ‘smiling (top) happily.’ So would you if your flesh had been hit by a mere fragment of a bullet or a pebble of concrete dislodged by ordnance striking the pavement. Despite any mood suppression from medication, you would be overjoyed to be walking out of minor surgery knowing that your injury is not life-threatening and just a surface wound expected to heal within a few weeks. If there is something to smile about in our troubled times, it’s that one is still alive and kicking, or at least doing better than those unfortunate victims of gunfire who will be a lifelong paraplegic or sustain incurable trauma to the brain, and they deserve comfort and support from all of us rather than accusations of being crisis actors.
There are three immediate reasons photos of horrific wounds are not bandied about in public: emotional trauma to victim families and friends; the potential for encouraging more acts of terrorism; and because blood and gore are not needed to get across the seriousness of this issue.
Delusional Fantasies of the World as a Stage
There is another sort of brain damage that arises from a fixation on the obvious deceptions in the 9/11 incidents. Sixteen years and three presidential administrations later, some people – myself included – are showing signs of fatigue over every single criminal incident on the police blotter being called a false flag event. Dog catcher down the street? It must be Homeland Security about to perpetrate canine attacks on your neighborhood children. Get over this mania, it’s worn out, tired and driving you insane. There happen to be actual crimes and terrorist actions being committed for various reasons, which law enforcement agencies may sometimes fumble due to inertia, bureaucratic red tape or simply because they were taken by surprise. Many types of criminal plots are nipped in the bud and therefore go unreported but some of the more calculated plans are bound to evade detection due to the law of statistics and probability.
Despite the fact that official coverup is the standard response to terror-related crimes, many, many eyewitness accounts from the Route 91 Harvest Festival have presented sufficient, credible evidence to blow the coverup away. Additionally, we have a solid timeline of events, recorded police radio traffic, conflicts among law enforcement agencies and recent background to indicate a calculated terrorist event aimed at putting political pressure on the Executive Office, State Department and Pentagon. Furthermore, it seems more than clear that the assault teams could easily have killed hundreds, if not thousands more people). Journalists are not bound by the same rules as lawmen and are expected to conduct independent investigations with professional competence. If someone cannot keep up with the process of investigative journalism, then please go back to watching the mindless plots of cable television and deluge of endless commercials. The Vegas massacre is complicated by the very fact of where it occurred and by the political effects it generates on the Middle East power balance as the wars in Syria and Iraq wind down.
The denials of gunshot killings have outraged many people who were caught in the crossfire and whose loved ones and friends are no longer with us. Given the tragedy for the survivors and families of the dead, it is grotesque to deny what happened, especially when the perpetrators have already announced that the next strike is going to be against San Francisco.
It is therefore not just insensitive to cast doubts on the pain of the victims, but nay-saying is stupid from a public security standpoint. Denial is helping the terrorists to escape and as such the deniers are essentially taking the side of terrorism. If that’s the way it’s going to be, don’t expect anyone to risk their lives to rescue an armchair theorist.
Graphic Violence in Media Imagery
In the Vietnam War, photojournalists sent home gut-wrenching images of the brutality of war, scenes like shot-to-pieces wounded US soldiers on stretchers, blown-apart bodies in the mud, the execution with gunshot to the head of an insurgent during the Tet Offensive, and a napalm-burnt girl running naked down a road in fear and pain.
Today, those sorts of graphic images cannot be published…not only due to the risk of lawsuits by the victims or surviving families who object to sensationalist displays of gore and pain that increase the newsstand sales of the mass media, but also because of concerns for media ethics in regard to commercial profiteering from bloodshed.
The ethical debate over gory images and compromising photos of prisoners that aid the hostage-takers, came to a head in another war situation, the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu. Following the famous Blackhawk Down gun battle, the naked bodies of American Special Forces soldiers were dragged through the unpaved streets to the cheers and jeers of overjoyed urban mobs who kicked the corpses and threw garbage on them. Here, again, was a most shocking example of war pornography, guaranteed to be inspirational to would-be “freedom fighters” or “terrorists” however you want to define that sort of killer-in-waiting.
Photos of abused and defiled American dead were published by some so-called news magazines with male genitals exposed to the viewer and to the absolute horror of the families of those soldiers. This sort of frank depiction in publications show clearly that the outcome of Operation Gothic Serpent was anything but a false flag attack and that death in war is agonizingly real. But was the public display of abused corpses fair to the children, wives and mothers of those fallen soldiers? That goes to the core of ‘media ethics’.
Commercial Exploitation of Victims of Violence
Mogadishu ended the debate over ethics until the issue resurfaced with the papparazzi photos of a shaken, bruised and blood-stained Princess Diana dying in the Paris Tunnel. From that point onward, the media worldwide (even the exploitative press like the National Enquirer) accepted self-imposed limits on graphic gore and sexualized violence. The media ethics controversy resurfaced in Hong Kong in the year 2000, when the tabloid press published upskirt photos of a suicidal woman, threatening to jump off a ledge. She jumped and the parasitic media leaped on the chance to follow up with photos of her smashed, bloody exposed body. Despite record newspaper and magazine sales, there was a backlash from journalism schools and the Christian Church against commercialization of violence and obscenity, during which I had no ethical qualms about arguing in favor of privacy and regard for family sensitivities, as well as the need to prevent copy-cat crimes.
In this time of mourning for the Las Vegas dead and seriously wounded, when the black threat of terrorism hangs over the country following the indiscriminate slaughter at the Orlando ‘Pulse’ and now the Route 91 Festival, discretion is advised. Social propriety does put a limit on the scope of the investigative journalism and critique of law enforcement, but that is a social reality that journalists need to abide by while tracking down the perpetrators and their rationale. In this hunt for the truth, sniping from the false flag wavers is an aid to the official cover-up that could help the criminally responsible get away to do it again.
Yoichi Shimatsu, former editor with the Japan Times newspapers in Tokyo and has reported on the Afghan War and the guerrilla campaign in Kashmir, attended the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley and was a founding lecturer at new journalism schools in Hong Kong and Beijing.