If you didn’t see it last week, yes CNN did get sniper footage from Iraq where American soldiers were shot. Yes, they aired it. And yes, I think it was in bad taste. Now a couple of congressmen want the Pentagon to ban CNN from embedding reporters in army units. No surprise there.
There are two reasons this is disturbing. One, the footage is not news but titillation. It was aired in the name of news, but does it really have news value? What do we learn from it? That the bad guys have access to cheap video cameras? I found it obscene, the way I find local news’ fixation on rape and murder obscene. Now we don’t want to gloss over the violence of man, but at what point does it become pornography? I’d argue that when an American network airs footage of Americans being sniped - even if the image fades out - it is going too far.
Even worse, CNN is now under fire from Republicans just at the point when it has started to find its courage again. We need our news organizations to be strong and to be able to stand up to the Pentagon. Otherwise we are just another banana republic, and not the one that sells khakis. When CNN decided to air the tape, they knew it would be controversial. Maybe they thought it would not get much notice amidst North Korea, Mark Foley and the election. Or maybe they thought it would and people would rush to watch the footage.
Regardless, it was in extremely poor taste and I’d hope that our leading news network - that’s not saying much - would exercise better judgment than this.