Is this photomosaic disrespectful to the American dead?

This is actually a pit thread that may be more relevant to GD.

For reasons I mentioned in the Pit, I find this use of images of the American dead from the war on Iraq to be disrespectful and sensationalistic rather than meaningful. I am interested in what others have to say.

BTW: To answer some questions before they’re asked: the image originated on this page, was made with a photomosaic software program, and uses images of each service person up to three times.

So Bush can use footage of 9/11 in his political ads, but no one had better ever dare mention any of the people he got killed?


I just tried to imagine how I would feel if my face were in that mosaic.
At first I felt nothing–kind of the “so what?” response you get when you completely fail to connect with an artist.

Then I changed the context: what if my picture in his face were part of a piece praising GWB as a hero of some kind. This would piss me off regardless of the nature of the conflict. If I died in a war, I wouldn’t care to give the credit to someone else.

Flipping back into context with that perspective, this picture is as effective as one showing an oversized GWB stuffing soldiers into a meat grinder with one hand and turning the crank with the other (not a real picture, unfortunately, just an example).

The mosaic pins accountability for the dead on GWB. Now. Whether or not this is appropriate is another matter. The dead (and the wounded in far greater number) are volunteers. Squandered volunteers, maybe, but they were certainly not under-trained draftees sent in without sufficient supplies to do the job. They are becoming casualties as is part of their job description. The artist is asking us to make an assumption about how worthwhile the dead would feel their sacrifice has been. And as a veteran I am not willing to make that assumption on their behalf. As a veteran, and as a US citizen, I do resent the lies used to support the war. But I don’t resent the mission nor the successes (which are dismissed almost daily) arising from it. Bush is a creep. His actions, and some imply his inactions, have killed some fine people, but in the process he has facilitated the ham-fisted removal of a monster. An absolute MONSTER of a human being, and his devilkin offspring. Many Iraqi citizens, angry, resentful and frightened, but safer, are better off. Read that as the sucessful defense of freedom for those people, and I think the casualties in the mosaic can be proud that they were in a place that needed them. There’s not a lot for Marines to do stateside except look sharp.

I think the confusion caused by the mosaic implies the artist is narrow-minded and bent only on indicting GWB. it does no honor to the dead, only dishonor to their leader. The artist is using their misfortune to buy his audience’s approval of his opinion: that GWB murdered these people. By whoring the dead in this fashion, I have to cast a vote for:



I think it’s somewhat distasteful, but I’m not particularly a: surprised by Michael Moore’s use of it, nor b: offended by it.

Bush started a war. Bush ordered these men and women to a situation in which these lives were endangered. Is it right, in my opinion, to use the images of those who are killed in the line of duty for any political purpose? No, I think it’s somewhat disrespectful. American soldiers take an oath of loyalty to “protect and uphold” the Constitution of the US. They do not pledge their loyalty to the government, to the President, to the flag, to the people of America, etc.

Is that worth even getting upset over? No, not really. Be upset that these people are dead, not that their images are being used for petty political messages.

As I said in the other thread, I do not think it is disrespectful, it is much more neutral than you would think and people project their own feelings. It could be seen as a tribute and it could be seen as an indictment. Just depends on your POV.

Not disrespectful.

Bush was soundly thrashed in the media for using that footage also, as well he should have been. I think that to criticize Bush for using that footage but not the person who made this for using these pictures (without permission of the families of the casualties) for this propaganda is a double-standard.

FTR, I am very anti-Bush and I have mixed feelings about the war, but I am also anti-glurge and anti-visceral-propaganda.

I don’t think it’s particularly decent or respectful. Maybe if the author had prior permission from the families or the men themselves, but absent that, it seems like manipulating them against their will. Many of them most definately died believing in what they were doing, even if they didn’t agree with the policy that put them there doing it. Just seems too gross and manipulative.

But I’m not sure this is really a great debate: whether or not something is disrespectful is like asking whether or not guava ice cream tastes good. The only “facts” we have to work with are prior statements made by current commentators on potentially similar events, and the only salient debating point is to cry “double standard!” That doesn’t seem like much of a debate: more a Pit thing or an IMHO.

Guava ice cream is disgusting. This is a poor example. :slight_smile:

Hypothetically, if I were to make a poster/picture featuring all of the US servicemen killed in Iraq – no mosaic or fancy tricks, just a straight table of all their photographs – and then stuck a picture of George W. Bush underneath it, and the caption “The War President”, would that be considered disrespectful or not?

Not trying to be provocative; I just wonder where the line between “fair use” and “disrespectful” is in this case(*), that of a non-profiteering, non-self-serving exercise in craft.

(* = As opposed to the use of 9/11 imagery in Bush’s campaign commercials, which was for self-serving interests)

I personally don’t think the artistic element enters into it. I have the utmost respect for people of craft–in the context of their ability to do neat stuff which I cannot do. It’s the association of the Images and the President in any format for the purposes of “glurge and…visceral-propaganda” that is bothersome.

There’s something that I dislike a lot in this image. In order to promote a political stance, they’re using pictures of people who, when they were alive, could have been strongly opposed to this stance. I would hate the idea of my picture being used after my death to support a cause I disagree with.
So, yes, I vote for “disrespectful”.

What is really disrespectful to me is GW happily bouncing onto the deck of an aircraft carrier in a flight suit and saying, “It’s over!” or words to that effect.

And saying “Bring it on!”

Err…Good question. In this case, it wouldn’t really bother me, and I can’t really pinpoint the difference. So, there’s propably something not extremely rational in my stance.

The only thing I can think of is that your example would be plain, cold information.

Originally posted by Inigo Montoya:

I guess you didn’t see any of those news stories about parents of soldiers having to buy bullet-proof vests and other supplies for their children because of the shoddy quality of their equipment

here is an article that discusses it.

Yes, but there were people who defended him, and those same people would likely oppose this.

Last time I checked, Michael Moore and the original creator of the image didn’t do (or not do) anything to kill those people. Bush, on the other hand, played a rather direct role in the 9/11 “incident” as well as the deaths of the soldiers.

How in the gods’ names can you be very anti-Bush but pro war?

In any case, I guarantee that 90% of the opposition to this image is contextual. If a Bushie had made it to honor the dead as valiant soldiers of freedom, the same people condemning it would be getting a hardon over it. But since they saw it on Michaael Moore’s website, it instantly becomes disgusting.

rjung brings up a good hypothetical based on this premise.

Here’s another hypothetical. There is a picture circulating the Internet of a young man at a white supremecist rally. He is toothless, bald, pale, and borderline deformed. The caption added to the picture is “Racism: A product of inferior breeding.” Now, using the same arguments applied to the Bush-image, one could say that this is disrespectful of the young man, as it uses his image to deliver a message that he would be opposed to. However, most (sane) people just think it is a funny picture.

The mosaic, as opposed to being humor, is an artistic rendering that links the lives of the soldiers to their President. If you take from that that the President did something wrong, then that speaks something about your subconscious, now doesn’t it?

Of course, in this case, we are helped by it being presented by Michael Moore, as opposed to Rush Limbaugh. If Rush had presented it, the reception would be entirely different, I think.

Context, context, context.

I don’t think it is wrong to display the pictures of the people who were slaughtered for an unjust and illegal war, any more than I think that the Vietnam Memorial is wrong or disrespectful to display the names of the dead - you can view the VM as either a memorial to the soldiers who gave their lives bravely, or as a reminder of the hideous cost of the war. It is up to your interpretation - and that is the beauty of the memorial. It is stark and neutral. It rips out as strong a reaction from Vietnam veterans as it does from people who took to the streets for a decade to oppose the war. I’m only in my 20s, and that god damn thing broke me into tears within 5 seconds. I’ve never seen a piece of art that evokes such raw emotion. My eyes are getting blurry just thinking about it.

(If only someone would build a memorial to the millions of civilians who died in the crossfire. It could wrap around Washington, and the politicians could see it every night as they drove home.)

This picture would be the same - if it were presented in a neutral context. The difference is that it uses images instead of names, and more directly ties them to a president.

Where did he say he was pro-war? “Mixed feelings” equals pro? You know, politics in this country are fucked up enough that I don’t think we need to create enemies that aren’t even there. Sampiro asked if the picture was disrespectful, and said he thought that it was. That doesn’t mean he has a big poster of Dick Cheney and a Bush flight suit doll. It just means that he thinks this picture is disrespectful of the dead. Saying things like

is a really counterproductive approach to a discussion of anything, unless you can point out how Sampiro’s OP reflects an attitude that Bush was right to use those firefighter images.

As divided as the atmosphere is about stuff like this, why create more divisions? When Bush has given his “With us or against us” spiels, many have said it’s a sickening sentiment that arouses even more hatred and polarizes the world that much more. More and more, though, in the media, on this message board, and just in society in general, people from all points on the political spectrum are taking the same A or B attitude. That way lies insanity. I think an individual should still be able to evaluate this (or any) particular situation on its own merit, and decide for himself whether he approves or not; that is, without doing the calculus in his head to determine which “side” could possibly score a half a point over the other side. I don’t see how the appropriateness of this particular piece of art should be relative to something that “the other side” did previously.

I don’t mean to single you out, Zagadka, (nor would I expect you to care even if I was,) and I’ve agreed with a great deal of what you’ve said over the last few weeks. It’s just that it is pretty disheartening to see that every issue which is raised- on a board populated with extraordinary intellects- is discussed so predictably, and so exactly along party lines. You’d think the more enlightened would be more receptive to shades of gray.

For the record, anyway- I’m about as liberal and anti-Bush as they come, and the picture gives me a really bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. Pictures of dead men and women being used to do anything but honor those individuals is disrespectful, in my opinion. I’d rather not be painted a neocon, just the same.

In order to have mixed feelings, one needs to have some pro- feelings, correct?

Perhaps I distilled the matter a bit much, but the point remains. Maybe this is a bettter way to phrase it:

I am curious how you can be anti-Bush but harbor any pro-war sentiment.

How, exactly, is a comparison to a recent example of shock propaganda counterproductive?

If you must know, I was on my way out the door, and felt that I would state my opinion and link it to a recent example of similar behavior by the opposite party. It was (correctly) pointed out that there was outrage against the clips being used, and that helps clarify and estimate how the public may or may not respond to further use of shock imagery.

Do you still have a problem with it?

Because things don’t happen inside a vacuum?

I don’t think anyone called you a neocon. Using my Vietnam Wall analogy, a Vietnam vet can be awed by the raw number of dead without being a bleeding heart hippie.

shrugs Personally, I have a great deal of respect for individual soldiers. I certainly wouldn’t wish any ill will upon them, nor any undeserved disrespect. Are they perfect? Hardly, they are human, and they do stupid things like everyone else. There are some bad eggs in the bunch, but that is to be expected.

However, when you are a member of the military, you become a statistic for both sides. If you die, that says something about the war, and I think it would be against the freedom of speech to try to prevent someone from using the examples of the soldiers to make an anti-war statement.

For instance, you can apply the same thing to Would most of the dead soldiers want their statistic to be used against the war? Usually, probably not. However, being dead, they do not have much control over the matter. Is it disrespectful to use their statistic to protest the war? I haven’t heard anyone making that claim.

Now, change the statistic to a picture. It is the same concept. The difference is, it is visual. By nature, images carry more emotional impact, and are, in fact, polarizing. While we may not react so strongly to reading a casualty list (numbers and names), we do react strongly to seeing a picture of someone and realizing that they are no longer alive.

Does that make it any worse than using their statistic against the war?

I don’t think so. It is the nature of art. Art can be controversial.

Going back to the Bush commercials, this is going to surprise you. I didn’t object to it. I thought it was pandering and using tragedy to further a personal political election agenda, but I don’t think it was all that wrong. Frankly, if Bush wants to keep pointing out that he failed and cost 3,000 lives, more power to him.

Another key difference here, as I stated, is that the creator and Moore never used this image to further their election schemes. They used it to make a political statement, yes, but not as an advertisement for their greatness.

And this, in turn, is what I am curious about. Are you saying that, if one believes that America would be better off were Bush not to win this election, one must necessarily be opposed to every single action by Bush? I think Bush is a bad president- very, very bad. I was behind him in going after Osama and his boys, though. Is that not allowed- being anti-Bush but harboring pro-war (in Afghanistan) sentiment? This gets back to what I was saying before- why do you insist on framing this in such black-and-white terms? Do you realize that, based on your quote above, you’ve basically argued that one must either offer blanket approval of an administration’s actions, or none at all?

Now I can’t speak for Sampiro, but it seems to me that if the war against Iraq was couched specifically as a war against Saddam and his regime, I would have been opposed to the war, but less so, because if done right there is an opportunity for a Saddam-free Iraq to be better than Saddam’s Iraq. By definition, then, I have mixed feelings. All in all, I do consider myself strongly against the war, but if unconditional opposition to any military action in Iraq is the only alternative, then I suppose I have mixed feelings too, because I see possible benefits for the nation, and I despise the chicanery with which this war was justified more than I oppose the war itself.

As far as your opinion on the appropriateness of the mosaic, that’s fine. I have no desire to persuade you that it’s disrespectful or in poor taste. That happens to be my opinion, but I understand where you and many others are coming from. I take issue only to the apparent desire to draw a line in the sand between “us” and “them.” Things don’t exist in a vacuum, but I don’t see how the next logical step is a call for monolithic political opinions- form a line to the right, and a line to the left.

Well, we are talking about the clusterfuck in Iraq, not the other clusterfuck in Afghanistan. Considering that the war is entirely a Bush policy, it follows that it is more likely that someone who disagreed with Bush’s policies would be more likely to disagree with his policy here.

Am I flat out floored that someone wouldn’t think that way? No. There are people on this forum who believe that the Iraq war is simply an extension of Desert Storm, and believe it has nothing to do with Bush. I’m simply saying that I’m curious as to the logic that allows Bush to invade a sovereign country, but oppose him in almost everything else.

I never said they did. I’m sorry if you took it that way, but it would be foolish to have this discussion without bringing up the recent history relevant to it. As I said, I myself take a non-comformist viewpoint on the Bush advertisements, so I don’t see how I am supporting monolithic political opinions. I merely brought the instance into the debate.