Reading The Pictures: How A War Out-Of-Sight Becomes A War Out-Of-Mind

05/25/2011 12:30 pm ET
  • Michael Shaw Publisher of the visual politics and media literacy site, Reading The Pictures.
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Dana Milbank's Washington Sketch this past Thursday is a painful, if must read.

Clearly and simply, the article describes how a war out-of-sight can quickly become a war out-of-mind. More specifically, it details how the Pentagon is visually censoring military funerals at Arlington, even when the family has given permission for media coverage.

Painting the situation surrounding Wednesday's "open" funeral of Lt. Col. Billy Hall, who left behind two children and two step-children, Milbank writes:

Journalists were held 50 yards from the service, separated from the mourning party by six or seven rows of graves, and staring into the sun and penned in by a yellow rope. Photographers and reporters pleaded with Arlington officials.

"There will be a yellow rope in the face of the next of kin," protested one photographer with a large telephoto lens.

"This is the best shot you're going to get," a man from the cemetery replied.

The first photo above lays out the problem in simple geography. The second photo, which accompanied the second story below -- dealing strictly with the funeral, and not the media angle -- features a telephoto shot of Lt. Col. Hall's family receiving a ceremonial flag, his children obstructed by a pole.

For more of the visual, visit

(images: Gerald Martineau - The Washington Post. April 23, 2008. Arlington Memorial Cemetery.