I want photos and I want them now

Article by Lauren Rosewarne /
ABC The Drum /
May 09, 2011 /

Click here to view original /

There are lots of things I don’t understand. By ‘don’t understand’ I mean find egregiously hypocritical but am trying to be polite.

Vegetarians who eat fish, for example. And anti-death penalty governments lauding the execution of Osama bin Laden.

While I think there’s an interesting article to be written about the sidelined values evidenced by some leaders recently, a story I’m more intrigued by is the bin Laden faces-of-death photos. And my being told I can’t see them.

I want my photos and I want them now.

I want the right to look at them for three reasons: one, they exist and so I want a stickybeak, two, the reasons I’ve been offered as to why I can’t have them are crap. And three, I’m not all that partial to being arbitrarily included and then excluded in a story at whim.

We know the photos exist. We know this because we were told. Put a curtain over something and we’ll want to peak underneath – Ourselves. Waiter tells us to be careful because the dish is hot and we’ll want to touch it – Ourselves. We’ve all watched enough Law and Order to harbour expectations of evidence that is more than hearsay. Yes, the arrr-m’hearties-sea-burial story was a good one, and indeed, the existence of DNA test results sound fascinating, but it’s not evidence we’d consider iron-clad. We weren’t at the sea burial. And we’ve each vacuumed and washed the sheets since Osama’s last visit: we can’t compare the DNA results ourselves. We want evidence that means something to us.

Telling us about the photos is just like the sealed section of Cleo and is exactly like whatever film the Catholics chose to picket this week: it’s the only reason we’re interested. Telling us that we can’t have them makes us want them more. Turns us into the desperate, ravenous, conspiracy-theory concocting dogs that we are.

If the Americans are suppressing the photos to preventing inflaming the fundies, then surely we’d expect some pretty big pay-offs for the gesture? So does this mean we go back on Al-Qaeda’s Christmas card list? Does the jihad get abandoned? Do the burnt fragments of the American flag somehow get pieced back together? No. Because, shock horror, these folks aren’t using a blackboard to chalk up the West’s good deeds and bad. Obama putting the photos in a locked boxed won’t be read as an olive branch or as an I’m-so- sorry-muffin basket: surprise, surprise, not releasing the photos doesn’t negate killing a leader.

For a third of my life, a war has been waged to, apparently protect my Western decadence in all its debaucherous glory. For a decade, I’ve duly taken my shoes off at the airport, bought overpriced water after clearing security and resisted the very obvious temptation to congregate near aeroplane toilets over American airspace.

For a third of my life, Osama has been pitched to me as some kind of Skeletor/Gargamel figure, the visual representation for all that is dangerous and fearful about the modern world. And now he’s dead and apparently I’m supposed to nod, congratulate the Americans and move on. Hardly. I’ve been part of the story up until this point and I damn well want to keep reading. Don’t tell me to turn off when we get to the good bit. No, Mum, it’s not my bedtime yet.

We’re told the death footage exists, that there are a handful of people who’ve seen it, and that’s supposed to be good enough for us. Interesting, because for years Obama has been hassled for a long-form birth certificate because his word isn’t construed as substantial enough. In a culture that is so used to seeing pictures of everything and has, largely construed pictures as synonymous with proof, that the US is playing this game with the death snaps seems particularly bizarre.

So why are they really hiding them?

Are they really afraid of inflaming the fundamentalists or are the photos so gruesome that we in the freedom-lovin’-West will question our own brutality? Question the assassination? Question this spurious war on terror?

Or is something even more sinister going on ?

I am an adult. I can choose to look or choose not to. At least give me the choice.

I want my photos. I want my photos. I want my photos.

© Lauren Rosewarne