An image of horror from Aleppo

The photo of a little boy who survived a bombing in Aleppo has gone around the world. The media have a tendency to oversimplify the spectacular, commentators criticise and warn against the overuse of images of children for symbolic purposes.

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Avvenire (IT) / 21 August 2016

Mass murder goes beyond Syria's borders

The image of little Omran highlights once more the media's tendency to oversimplify, Avvenire criticises:

“In deliberately placing certain events in the foreground, large sections of public opinion cast themselves as the bearers of the only truth. They present the scenario of brutalization in black and white, with the victims on the one side and the perpetrators on the other. The fact is that all too often the media emphasise those events that can be marketed effectively. The standards they go by are the readers' level of interest and the sensational character of the events. This is how the picture of little Omran ended up on all the front pages in the world. … But it would have been more appropriate to point out that Omran is a symbol of a mass murder that goes far beyond martyred Syria's borders. Every five minutes a child dies somewhere in the world as a result of an act of violence.”

Jutarnji list (HR) / 22 August 2016

The inflation of dreadful images of children

The author Miljenko Jergović looks back on the history of emblematic images of children in wars in Jutarnji list, and warns against overuse:

“The little boy with his hands up in the Warsaw Ghetto, the naked girl in Vietnam who was cynically dubbed 'Napalm Girl', the little girl from Vukovar in the sky blue jacket. … Ever since the US started fighting its wars in the Middle East and blowing up states with Muslim majorities - supposedly in the name of democracy - we have seen a unique inflation of children's unhappiness. The pictures are becoming more and more dreadful, we are bombarded with one after another and this is leading to a dangerous numbing of emotion and empathy in the observers. Images of bloody, dead, children have become as hackneyed as photos of pets.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) / 19 August 2016

No one willing to assume responsibility

The world owes Omran Daqneesh an explanation, author Dacia Maraini comments in Corriere della Sera:

“Omran's face, frozen in horror and covered in dust and blood, says things about the war that cannot be put into words. In little Omran's eyes we see the same silent question repeated again and again: Why? A question no one knows how to answer. … An answer that a responsible adult owes this child. And responsibility is precisely what is lacking in this war, this bloodbath. Responsibility means weighing up the consequences of one's actions. But how many bomber pilots, how many politicians and statesmen are aware of the consequences of their actions? Right down the line a lack of awareness seems to prevail, an inability to see the horrors and to understand what their own decisions are causing.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) / 19 August 2016

The world needs such images

Even images like the one of young Omran Daqneesh are forgotten far too quickly, the Süddeutsche Zeitung remarks:

“Even if you're sceptical about the aestheticisation of horror, and even if you question emotional appeals that emphasise the suffering of children: without such photos it would be even easier for viewers to close their eyes and hearts to the daily spectacle of horror. Because who really pays attention to the shocking news reports that reach us from Syria every hour? Who hears those that come from war-torn yet invisible Yemen? More alarming than the reduction of conflicts to iconic moments is our way of treating such images: they're shared in the social media - and then forgotten as soon as they disappear from the bottom of the screen. The suffering in Aleppo and elsewhere continues even after the tsunami of pity on the Internet has abated.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) / 18 August 2016

No-fly zone would prevent atrocities

British Prime Minister Theresa May should urge the international community to set up a no-fly zone the way her predecessor John Major did to protect the Kurds in Iraq in 1991, urges Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, former commander of Nato's Rapid Reaction Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Battalion, in The Daily Telegraph:

“I plead with our new Prime Minister (who I gauge has the quiet understated steel of Sir John Major) to lead the international community again to this no fly zone approach. Tracking and stopping slow-moving helicopters which drop barrel bombs is relatively straightforward and is potentially quick to put into effect. Britain even has the Royal Navy assets in the Eastern Mediterranean to do this ourselves. It is time now for good men and women to act, to ensure that Omar Daqneesh and his generation survive to build a new Syria and not to be another statistic in this genocide – or to become the jihadists of tomorrow.”

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