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War porn on the rise?

18 May

Regular old porn may be hurting thanks to the internet, but according to one pop culture expert, the phenomenon of “war porn” is, ahem, rising.

Wikipedia neutrally defines “war porn” as images and video of military personnel and activities, although in actuality the term really refers more to stuff (and people) getting blown up. It’s half way between a Bruckheimer movie come to life and snuff film. (And yes, war porn is another variation of how anything that involves pictures can be classified as some sort of porn, i.e. a ski magazine is “snow porn.”) Perhaps the best example of this sort of site is Gotwarporn.com, where the motto is “countering the cyber-jihad one video at a time.”

Regardless of how you define it, David Schmid, a professor of English at the University of Buffalo says war porn is on the rise online, thanks mostly to the dearth of mainstream media presence in war zones. “Soldiers have always collected trophies from the conflicts in which they are involved,” he says, “but today they have the technology to turn such trophies into media events. In one sense, then, it’s just the technology that has changed. The rest is continuous… I think the market is also created by the lack of a critical mainstream media presence in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Schmid points to the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, and the photos of inhumane prisoner treatment there, as the catalyst for launching the issue of war porn into the public consciousness. The concept existed before, but that was the first time the general public got a taste of what war porn aficionados are into.

The purpose of Schmid’s study of the issue is a little hard to figure, but he does seem to come to a bit of a conclusion on the University of Buffalo’s website:

In contrast to the Vietnam era, when war correspondents had much more mobility and independence inside war zones, and thus submitted some pretty horrifying footage of war that arguably hastened the war’s end, ever since the first Gulf War, the American media has, by and large, been quiescent to the government’s desire to keep them away from the action by ’embedding’ them with the troops. War porn, in a bizarre way, is evidence of the failure of the strategy of embedding.

It’s an interesting observation. I’ll ask some friends and colleagues who are/were war correspondents and see what they think, and report back here.

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Posted by on May 18, 2010 in internet, war

 

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