INSIDE THE BELTWAY: Without having photographs, how would we ever be able to form an opinion on key events?

Republicans, who were attacking the government of the United States a week ago as ’jackbooted thugs’ and whose columnist-spokesmen were praising the Miami Cubans as exemplars of American values until reminded they were burning American flags on TV, seem to have retreated from the PR front lines.

Republicans, who were attacking the government of the United States a week ago as ’jackbooted thugs’ and whose columnist-spokesmen were praising the Miami Cubans as exemplars of American values until reminded they were burning American flags on TV, seem to have retreated from the PR front lines.

Republicans, who were attacking the government of the United States

a week ago as ’jackbooted thugs’ and whose columnist-spokesmen were

praising the Miami Cubans as exemplars of American values until reminded

they were burning American flags on TV, seem to have retreated from the

PR front lines.



Visual images have become so much the focus of interest in politics and

public affairs, it seemed the photo of a US Marshal with an automatic

weapon pointed at young Elian Gonzalez would be enough to invite most

Americans to join the Clinton-haters and perhaps create another

political crusade.



Ignoring - at their peril - some questions Americans might well ask,

such as ’Who arranged for the photographer to be at a surprise 5:00 AM

raid?’ or ’What was the fisherman (fisherman?) doing holding Elian in a

back closet in the home of the great-uncle?’, Republicans leaped into

the breach with promises of hearings, talk about Waco and how ashamed

they were to be Americans.



But cameras are everywhere, it turns out, and soon photo editors were

able to put beside the armed marshal pictures of Elian gazing at his

father, in his father’s arms, with laughter and what looked like

adoration.



And even before victory in the pictorial war shifted to the side of

Elian’s real family - as opposed to the ever-present great-uncle and the

near hysterical cousin-once-removed - public opinion polls had begun to

show substantial support for the actions of Attorney General Janet

Reno.



And as this is written, it appears there will be no hearings. The

’jackboot’ people and those ’ashamed’ of this country are in full

retreat and even Fidel Castro, who welcomes nothing more than huge

public tributes, now is urging a muted welcome when the family

returns.



Question: if there were no photographers available to shoot key moments,

and if polling were illegal and focus group members could be jailed as

conspirators, would we have opinions on most subjects, and would those

opinions be as heightened and close to violence as they have become?



It’s commonplace to ask if World War II had been as freely reported,

photographed - and televised - as Vietnam, would we have stayed the

course until V-E and V-J Day? If the Nazis, for that matter, had with

their customary thoroughness kept a filmed record of the concentration

camps, would the victors have been as kind to Germany after the war and

since? Would the public have supported- even lukewarmly - US troops to

Bosnia without the atrocity pictures?



For that matter, would we not be in the midst of hearings if Elian had

shrunk from his father’s embrace?



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