Sunday, September 06, 2009

In Reply: Striking a Balance Between Privacy and the Public's Right to Know

In reply to the American Power post "Realities of War? An Update," discussing military families and privacy rights vs the public's right to know:

It's a shame that Dr. Douglas included the bit about Cassandra at Villainous Company. Given his history with her (and the fact that he relates it here in this post), it seemed a little more vindictive that informative.

Aside that, this is among Donald's best posts, as he shows himself willing to look at all sides of the issue and admit that he's not sure there is one right answer.

While I believe the media should have the legal right to use legitimately newsworthy photographs, they have a moral obligation to balance newsworthiness against the privacy wishes of the person being photographed or, when they cannot express their wishes, the wishes of their families.

While there will always be some who prefer to keep their grief private, there will also always be those who, for one reason or another, choose to share their grief and the loved one they lost with the rest of us, and I agree that those latter families, no matter the reason for their choice, are allowing their loved one to serve their country one final time.

While it's sad that some families will find themselves in the position of having photographs published against their wishes, and that there will be times when the public will lose out on a better understanding of an issue because the media outlet chose to honor a families wishes, I believe that the system we have now is about right -- though I remain suspicious of the whole embed system.

Aside legitimate national security concerns, the military should not be dictating what stories and images they must or cannot use to a free media. (However, I agree that if the contract the photographer signed said she was restricted in what she could offer for publication, she should've lived up to her word, and not used those photographs. It's a bad rule that I believe reporters & photographers ought to refuse to sign, but those who do sign ought to live up to it.)

As for Cassandra (since Dr. Douglas did bring it up), I believe she is playing the reductio ad absurdum game (or something like it at least).

First of all, we do in fact see some of the physical effects of rape, on those victims who despite privacy concerns, are willing to show some of their injuries in the media or in public. Even very graphic images are "published" in court, where some members of the general public do see them.

Images of genitals etc. are for the most part kept out of the media whether the person is a soldier or a rape/incest victim, so I'm not sure her analogy holds.

And the fact that soldiers volunteer to serve their country and perhaps be maimed or killed whereas crime victims do not makes a difference, as well. Whatever injuries a soldier sustains s/he receives on behalf of all of us. That means we have an obligation to know what we're asking our military men & women to risk for us. There are very few situations where anyone (let alone the country) asks a woman to become a rape victim on another person's behalf.

On the other hand, Cassandra is right about one thing; Thankfully, relatively few of us really know what it means to be a victim of the kind of crimes she describes. While I'm not sure we need to or that it would help anyone if more of us did, she is right about the fact that few of us do. But while the tolerance for some crimes (like the video voyeurism of Erin Andrews, where the video was essentially a product of the crime) is too high, VERY few are similarly tolerating, celebrating or otherwise defending the acts of rape or incest or any of the products thereof. And again, no one volunteers to put themselves as substantial risk of becoming victim of such a crime on behalf of their country.

While I admire her passion, Cassandra's arguments are way off base.

Posted Sunday, September 6, 2009, 2:11 AM (AmPow Blog Time)

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