Sucking up

Michael Rogin

  • Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War by John MacArthur
    California, 274 pp, £10.00, January 1994, ISBN 0 520 08398 9
  • Live from the Battlefield: From Vietnam to Baghdad – 35 Years in the World’s War Zones by Peter Arnett
    Bloomsbury, 463 pp, £17.99, March 1994, ISBN 0 7475 1680 4

The United States has been gripped by a campaign to drive violence from television. Some blame violent images for violent acts; others insist that the images themselves do violence. Senators bemoan television brutality, a national debate on the pros and cons of censorship takes centre stage for a time – displaced by other violent attention-getters like Lorena and John Wayne Bobbitt, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, Singapore’s caning sentence to punish an American teenager, the ‘three strikes and you’re out’ Congressional proposal to jail for life those convicted of three violent crimes (a category that includes any drug-related offence and the use of imitation guns) – but nothing will change. Since violence sells, this campaign will fail. So long as the state is unwilling to interfere with the operations of the marketplace, the debate augments the fascination with violence rather than standing in its way.

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