CHICAGO, October 22, 2012 — On a cold Valentine’s Day in 1929 the Capone gang committed a massacre that shocked Chicago. The reports of the murder were not what shocked the citizens. They, as well as the politicians, had become inured to the murderous gangs.
It was the photos that shocked people. Citizens were appalled to see bodies, in stark black and white, with all the blood spatters and streams.
Those photos changed Chicago’s view of their loveable gangsters. Those photos also turned the tide for the mob. Once Capone was out of the way, safely ensconced in prison for tax evasion, the mob went underground.
In Sicily during the 1980s it was photographs and video of the bloodshed that turned the population against the Mafia. Those photographs and videos did what no written stories could do. They created outrage and mass protests.
During the riots in London last year images, still and video, of bloodied victims and rioters causing mayhem, arson, and destruction appalled and shocked the normally staid British. They demanded action against the roving band of criminals.
Recently the same thing is happening in Mexico. Scenes in the media of shootings, hangings, and beheadings are turning the public against the powerful and murderous drug cartels and gangs.
Images, whether still or video, have power. They have more power than any thousand-word news article or multi page magazine article. No words can express what the eye can see. The images are burned into people’s minds. The adage that a picture is worth a thousand words is terribly true when it comes to murder and mayhem.
Here in sensitive and oh so politically correct America journalism rarely disseminates these types of images. When murders occur all we see are what cops call kindergarten graduation or first communion pictures of victims. Te media will not show the body(s) lying where they fell. They will not show the bloodshed and carnage. American journalism is neither fearless nor courageous.
They do the same thing when major drug dealers or gang leaders are arrested. They do not show them doing the perp walk. Once in a while they may show a mug shot. That would be the last time the public sees the face of crime. Journalism’s excuse is they do not want to paint certain races or ethnicities as criminal for the sins of a few.
Journalism does not want to tell the truth out of fear some storefront celebrity preacher or the local politicians will protest and get mad at them. They squirm, wriggle, and jiggle as a gelatinous mass of cowardice.
Chicago just experienced the Summer of Violence. Over 2000 people were shot and hundreds died. The media was all over these stories as they happened. Life went on. No one got mad. Peace and tranquility reigned throughout the city. The carnage still goes on.
People read these stories, get upset, and then turn to the sports pages or crossword puzzles. If there was a nice color image of the body(s) in the street, car, or where ever it fell, people would get up set. They would stare, gawk, and be appalled. Those images would be seared into their brains. The same holds true if images of arrested gang and drug cartel leaders are put on the front page over and over again during their legal proceedings, just like the aging mobsters in wheel chairs sucking oxygen.
Images are powerful. No words can convey feeling the way an image can. No editorial excoriating violence can move people to action the way images can. In Chicago in 1929, in Sicily, Mexico, and other places around the world images created action.
Images of starving children in Africa made people in developed nations demand their politicians do something. Stark images of poverty in America over the course of the Twentieth Century made people aware and created changes and safetynet programs.
The images of combat during the Viet Nam War on the nightly news and in morning papers and weekly magazines changed Americans view of that conflict. The two iconic photos from the war, the execution of a traitor by a police official and the napalm girl are still remembered to this day.
This past year, in Greece, people rioted over the image of a distruaght middle aged man pouring fuel over himself while lighting it.
With all the technology in the hands of so many, everyone is a photographer and journalist. It is a shame that images that should be on the front page or television show up on various social media platforms instead. Sometimes those images go viral. Most times there is no story told.
Images are part of stories. A meager story with a compelling image can do more than a strong story with a kindergarten graduation picture.
If journalism claims to be a public service, if they claim to tell the best version of the truth, then they owe the public the whole truth and nothing but the truth. People need to be appalled, shocked, and awed. They need to see the end result of gang and drug warfare, murder, mayhem, and violence. Then they can hold the cowardly politicians responsible.
During this election cycle we hear nothing about law and order from national or local politicians running for election and reelection. The politicians are terrified to bring up such a politically unpalatable subject.
This is not an ideological issue. It is not a party issue. It is just plain common sense. If people can see with their own eyes the carnage wrought upon their communities they would force change. They would demand the gangs disband. They would demand police and politicians drive drug dealers out of their neighborhoods. They would hold people accountable.
That is what the politicians and journalism fears. They are joined together in a symbiotic relationship that cannot be broken. Pity they are losing out to all the people out there with smart phones, tablets, and small video and still cameras. It is shameful others have to do their job.
These images below are graphic in nature. Hide the kiddies. They are compiled from Mexico, Sicily, and America- before political correctness. Mafia and Mexican drug cartel murders.
Peter V. Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance journalist and photojournalist, cook, and raconteur. He likes to be the irreverent sharp stick that pokes, prods, and annoys. His opinions are his and his alone. Mr. Bella is a member of the National Press Photographers Association, Online News Association, Chicago Headline Club, and the Society for Professional Journalists.
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