Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"In Harm's Way" by Martin Bell [15]

Chapter 16: Shading the Truth
Chapter 17: War Is a Bad Taste Business

These two chapters are both concerned with war reporting, the physical, ethical and moral risks involved in that endeavor, and with the dangers of self-censorship as well. Both chapters are well-written, deeply felt, astutely observed, and grapple with complex and difficult moral questions. They are not, however, directly concerned with the subject of this blog, so in the interests of keeping this review moving on I will only mention that my admiration for this book grows as I work through it, and leave it at that.

It's not that Bosnia does not figure in these chapters--while Chapter 16 largely goes back in time, to Bell's days reporting in Northern Ireland, Chapter 17 is entirely concerned with events in Bosnia. Rather, the main issue is not the war itself but rather the reporting of it, and some of the factors which affected that reporting. Specifically, how one central fact of war reporting--that it is dangerous and can get you killed--imposed a "bias" of sorts on the reports coming out of Bosnia. Chapter 17 concludes with this sobering statement:

"On the issue of our coverage of the Bosnian war the true charge against us is not that we misrepresented it by seeking out the horrors and ignoring the context; or that we somehow short-changed our public by telling them less than we knew. It is that for reasons of prudence we didn't know, and therefore didn't tell, the half of it."

Only six chapters and a short epilogue to go. There is already a candidate for my next review waiting.

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