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    Friday, September 30, 2005

    The Gore-for-Porn Story

    If you're curious about this weird photo swap- dead Iraqis for amateur porn- the Washington Post has an excellent summary on their World Opinion Roundup blog, which provides links to the best of the coverage out there. Not surprisingly, the best stuff tends to come from the porn-obsessed blogosphere, and we can thank bloggers for keeping the story alive and framing it as "The Next Abu Ghraib". The international news outlets, particularly those online, were the other source for good coverage, as American mainstream media seemed strangely uninterested in what should be BIG NEWS.

    The scary part is that, unlike the Abu Ghraib scandal, this seems to have died on the vine, despite the fact that this is also a direct violation of the Geneva Convention.

    Brown said some of the pictures are "far worse" than any taken at Abu Ghraib. "But they show the same tangle of lust for flesh, power and killing."

    Aljazeera.net suggested the story's political implications have yet to be felt in the Middle East. "It is pictures such as 'Cooked Iraqi' -- showing a group of smiling US soldiers standing over the charred remains of an Iraqi -- that may spell trouble for the Bush administration."


    Why aren't mainstream journalists jumping on this? And why doesn't the military seem too concerned? Things involving the convergence of violence (war especially) and sexuality and very difficult to cover. These things, like Abu Ghraib, can be covered as violations of international law with the sexual elements all but ignored. That, to me, was one of the most frustrating things about the coverage of Abu Ghraib- props to Richard Goldstein for his willingness to confront the sexual issues of Abu Ghraib. I think it would be difficult to cover the gore-for-porn story as simply as that; the directness of the sexual element would resist a desexualized or mostly desexualized portrayal. Even above in the overall excellent coverage from the WaPo blog, the language used is "lust for flesh", which makes it seem like a reiteration of "violence", rather than simply "lust" or some such word.

    The other thing is that, frankly, I don't think anyone will be that scandalized. For one, pornography, as we hear all the damn time lately, is mainstreamed enough that few but the most rabid anti-porn crusaders would be surprised or disturbed by the idea of American soldiers consuming it in serious quantities. Especially as the form of the porn is so very unthreatening to most people- amateur "girlfriend" porn which is pornographic photos of women and couples in partnered relationships, rather than, say, fetish porn or S&M or, gasp, gay porn. And most people would be fascinated by pics of dead Iraqis. Dead people in general. Death is fascinating. So, the trade makes sense. Needs served through exchange. And, after all, they're Iraqis.

    Andrew Brown's piece in the Guardian is quite well-done, juxtaposting the language of online porn with the imagery of brutal violence:

    A burnt and crumpled Arab face rests in a blue kitchen bowl. It doesn't look as if the back of the head is there, but it's impossible to be sure because everything behind the eyes is hidden in a pool of blood and everything below the jaw is missing. Underneath the picture are two discreet text ads for "Free amateur teen pictures" and "Mother and Daughter omfg! They are whores lol!"

    That second line, where the body of the dead Iraqi is obscured and surrealized, is strangely fitting for a comparison with pornography.

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