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Published:March 6th, 2010 10:03 EST

What is Wrong with this New York Post Picture?

By Djelloul (Del) Marbrook (Editor/Mentor)

What is wrong with this New York Post picture?

It bespeaks a society reveling in war.

It is reckless to the verge of Islamophobia in the sense that the word Islam, the religion of more than a third of the world`s population, is callously imbedded in it.


It implies that while the extremist fundamentalists known as the Taliban are not okay our own Islamophobic extremists get a free pass.

The face of the American soldier is a white face, probably an Anglo face, and yet our army is racially diverse. The implication is that white America is triumphing in a far-off place. The message the headline sends to the Third World is horrific. But of course The Post doesn`t circulate in the Third World. The photo editor made a conscious choice. He undoubtedly had photos on his computer that showed the ethnic diversity of our army. He would doubtless argue that he chose the best picture and that its subliminal message is a subjective matter. That may be working out for The Post, but to my mind it presents an inflammatory picture of an America that says it wants to bring democracy to Afghanistan while it brings death and destruction.

There are all kinds of problems with this incitatory editing at The Post. It reveals an extremist newsroom culture in which truth plays second fiddle to circulation. And it reveals a poverty of imagination, saying as it does that volatile disinformation is the best way to win readers. This has always been a tabloid trait, but 50 years ago nobody saw foreign tabloids; today they can appear across the world on the Internet faster than they can circulate in the suburbs.

Am I overreacting, especially in view of New York City`s long tradition of explosive tabloid journalism? Yes, I am, but only to make a point. The photo editor at The Post knew exactly how volatile this picture and headline would be. The editor knew exactly to whom it would appeal.
We have free speech, so there is nothing wrong with this, however objectionable it might be to more contemplative sensibilities. There is, after all, the middle-of-the-road New York Times and the sedate Wall Street Journal, which is just as right-wing as The Post but more intelligent if not stodgy about it.

When I was a kid I used to sell 360 New York Daily Mirrors and 340 Daily Mirrors every night on 8th Avenue, so I`m not namby-pamby about rough-and-tumble journalism. Our newspapers and television shows are snapshots of our culture. Or perhaps they`re mirrors. We should look into them as we look at ourselves when we dress in the morning. Do we like what we see?

It is paradoxical that in a city of ever more stark differences between rich and poor such a warlike headline hits the streets. Many of the city`s poor may end up fighting in Afghanistan in a war they do not understand simply because there are no other jobs for them. Many of them have no idea why it is exhilarating, as The Post implies, to slam the Taliban. Would it be as exhilarating to slam our own nut cases, or is it okay simply because the Taliban are foreign? Are our people of color supposed to be happy about this, or would they be happier if their government was trying to figure out how to help them pay their rent, mortgages and medical bills?

Would The Post be ecstatic all over its front page if mortgage relief were legislated or if Goldman Sachs were somehow punished for helping the Greek government lie to its European neighbors about its ominous debt?

And what about that terror town " The Post talks about? By whose definition? Gen. Stanley A, McCrystal`s? The National Security Council`s? Did anybody in that town kill 10 innocents with a misguided missile, as we have just done, and respond by saying oops?

We`ve always had tabloid journalism, most of it ultraconservative. My point is merely that this is the face of a society that has become accustomed to making war in faraway places, a society that uses the the word war lightly, conversationally, a society that has become accustomed to slamming around and being cocksure it knows who the enemy is and where the enemy is, a society running up an unconscionable war debt while blaming social programs for it.

The Post headline headline should give us pause.

Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.

His book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal Latté first prize in fiction in 2008. His poems have been published in The American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, poemeleon, The Same, and other journals. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999.

He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.