Thursday, May 17

Really? Is this a photograph our media wouldn't want you to see?

It's a good photo because of the story it tells. The caption reads:

Air Force Chief Master Sgt. John Gebhardt, of the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group at Balad, Iraq, cradles a young girl as they both sleep in the hospital.

The girl's entire family was executed by insurgents; the killers shot her in the head as well.

The girl received treatment at the US military hospital in Balad, but cries and moans often.

According to nurses at the facility, Gebhardt is the only one who can calm down the girl, so he has spent the last several nights holding her while they both sleep in a chair.

The photo and caption are now being passed around the internet – often with comments that say you'd never see the Australian press run something like it.

Indeed, it came to me from a friend who criticises newspapers trenchantly (she never reads them, by the way) and I think she looks forward to the day the internet kills off print altogether.

I think it's her comment on top: “Why doesn't the media print pictures like this one?” Somewhere along the line someone else has written: “Why isn't this all over the news? If he had done something wrong, it surely would be!”

Everybody loves to pin a conspiracy rap on the media.It's almost a national sport.

But do you really believe that Australia's daily newspapers – most of which are owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, a strong supporter of George W. Bush on Iraq – would suppress a pic like this for ideological reasons? Get real!

I have some difficulty in commenting further. Like most people flinging conspiracy theories around the internet, the people who post this material don't see any need to provide documentation.

It's a newspaper clipping, obviously, but what newspaper?

The credit line for the pic is: “Photo courtesy David W. Gilmore Jr./ U.S. Air Force.

I'm only guessing, but the wording of the credit line, the rather amateurish headline and the caption suggest to me the clipping has come from a US military or air force newspaper, possibly produced in Iraq for US forces posted there. Nothing wrong with that.

But we don't know whether that pic, or any like it, were offered to Australian newspapers. In any case, a responsible picture editor in Australia would want to know more of the picture's provenance before publishing it.

Could it have come from a propaganda unit? (Such things do exist, you know.)

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