In collusion with war makers, the visual media is constantly turning war into spectacle. Particular scenes get old pretty fast though. After so many news photos evoking the David and Goliath parable, capturing young protesters in keffiyehs using age-old slingshots to hurl stones, it’s not that novel anymore. It’s at that point, seeking ever more impact and attention, that the two sides, as well as the visual media, seek fresher types of tactical effects.
During the end game in Iraq, the trending visual was the dramatic explosion which, catalyzed by social media and the ubiquitous cell phone, yielded the wildly popular explosion selfie. This past week, the clash between the Gazans and the Israeli military, inflamed by the US moving its embassy to Jerusalem, opened the media floodgates to two more visual stamps. The Israeli contribution was constituted by the tear gas assault, in part enabled by the “tear gas drone.” In the case of the Palestinians, it was the brilliantly asymmetrical leveraging of the split screen.
Here are a couple screenshots from a New York Times video piece fashioned almost entirely by those side-by-sides:
Of course, the magnitude of the tear gas assault was horrifying. As a specter in the visual landscape, however, it was quite sensational–and this past week, western media couldn’t get enough of it.
What stokes the media as effectively as it fuels insurgency and state power–especially in the Trump era? Simply put, it’s the fireworks.
— Michael Shaw
Photo: Mohammed Abed/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images Caption: Israeli soldiers fired tear gas at Palestinian protesters; Photo 2: Reuters Caption: Tear gas canisters are fired by Israeli forces at Palestinian demonstrators during a protest demanding the right to return to their homeland, at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Gaza City, May 4, 2018; Photo 3: AFP Caption: Palestinian protesters flee from incoming teargas canisters during clashes with Israeli forces along the border with the Gaza strip east of Gaza City on May 4, 2018, on the sixth straight Friday of mass demonstrations calling for the right to return to their historic homelands;Photo 4: AFP Photo Caption: Palestinian protesters run during clashes with Israeli forces near the Gaza border on May 15, 2018.