Rumsfeld talks about the power of words versus pictures in his testimony before congress:
Words don't do it. The words that there were abuses, that it was cruel, that it was inhumane, all of which is true, that it was blatant, you read that and it's one thing.
You see the photographs, and you get a sense of it, and you cannot help but be outraged...
I heard speculation on NPR this weekend that the power of pictures to create an emotional impact and a believable impression was due to the relatively new evolution of the use of language in our brains versus the relatively old processing of sight.
The combination of the internet and digital photography has left the US powerless to halt Iraq net images. Clay Shirky compares new free production and distribution of images to the free production and distribution of text from the printing press. He wonders what the Protestant Revolution of the Digital Image age will be.
While the shocking images of American wrong doing dominates the established newscasts, various blogs work to distribute images that tell a different story of the war in Iraq.
Congress can tackle some of the negative consequences of spontaneous photography. But I wonder if there is also a price to be paid for too much transparency? The sausage might be tastier without the images of what went into it. Focusing too much on one thing one can lose sight of the big picture. Observation changes the result. There may be some political problems that can be solved by a back-room deal between elected representatives that could never be solved under the scrutiny of the 24 hour news cycle and polarized watchful constituencies. Is there a role for secrecy in government just as there is a role for privacy for individuals?
I wonder what new institutions this revolution will bring?