Friday, May 14, 2004

The War and 20 somethings

Interesting Yahoo! news item write up about the war and kids in their 20s

Shock of War Comes Home to 20-Somethings

Graphic images from Iraq (news - web sites) are being circulated on their medium, the Internet, riveting a generation sometimes criticized for being disengaged. And many of those images involve people their age, among them 26-year-old Nick Berg, whose horrific death was captured on video — as well as young American soldiers mugging for the camera alongside naked, hooded Iraqi prisoners.
"It's the first time we can't just point a finger at a leader and say 'You did this wrong' and instead have to say 'We're doing this wrong,'" says Sarah McAuley, a 24-year-old who lives in San Francisco. "The people shown abusing Iraqi prisoners are me, or at least not as distinguishable from me as some."
McAuley saw the first photos showing abuse of Iraqi prisoners on a TV at her gym. Soon after, she fired off an entry for her Web log, describing how she felt "sad, ashamed and disappointed."
The searing images have had that effect on many Americans. But some experts believe they will have particular influence on this generation and its view of the war.
"Words have a power to affect your mind and to get your brain waves going," says Matthew Felling, the 30-year-old spokesman for the Center for Media and Public Affairs, a Washington-based media watchdog. "But an image — and a visceral one at that — tugs at your heart. And that is the language that Generation X and Y speak more than any other age groups."
Increasingly, the Web has played a big part in that.

Internet company Terra Lycos reported that, for the first time since it started, searches for prisoner abuse images last week propelled the war in Iraq to the top of its "Top 10 Search Term" list. Earlier this week, the company said interest shifted notably to Berg, whose captors posted the video of his slaying on the Web.
An entry posted on the Web site Live Journal about the first prison abuse photos also has drawn more than 1,200 responses in recent days — many of them from young people.
"I think a lot of the reaction, particularly among kids, is a struggling to understand these horrors and put them in context," says Ryan Brenizer, a 25-year-old New Yorker who regularly posts his thoughts on Live Journal. "I got into political discussions online largely because it was fun, but none of this is fun or about entertainment — it's about grappling with an often scary, changing world."
Then there's the speed with which these war images are being circulated, says Abe Peck, a journalism professor at Northwestern University.
"It's this media stream that 20-somethings and certainly 'teen-somethings' live in — and that just accelerates everything," he says.
Access to such technology makes the Vietnam conflict — dubbed the nation's first "living room war" due to greater access to TV images — seem like the Dark Ages. Now it's instant war, in real time.
"It's coffins at Dover," Felling says. "It's Fallujah, bodies dangling. It's a snapshot of Pat Tillman (the 27-year-old former NFL player killed in Afghanistan (news - web sites)).
"It just builds a momentum of its own."
Erin Bechill, a 22-year-old Chicagoan, thinks that's true.
She remembers walking with a good friend recently and passing newspaper boxes filled with images of the Iraqi prison photos. And though their political views differed — she's more conservative, while he's more left-leaning — they agreed about the photos' meaning.
"We both saw them as a sign that this war has reached a tipping point," Bechill says. "It's time to bring our troops home."
Despite all the attention these latest war images are getting, there remain a few who still don't follow the war much.
"To me, the war is just kind of like another show on television," says Chris Urban, a 28-year-old from St. Louis who works in magazine distribution. "I try to check in on it a couple times a week. But it doesn't have much bearing on my life."
And as awful as they are, he says he's not shocked by these latest war images.
"It's part of war," he says, adding that there are plenty of other atrocities that never get this kind of attention because there are no photos or video.
Still others, including 24-year-old Brette Peyton in Dallas, have felt overwhelmed by images that are all too real.
"I feel like I can't even turn on the TV or look at a newspaper without seeing them — and I don't want to see them anymore," says Peyton, who's the daughter of a retired Army officer.
At the same time, she feels like it's her generation's responsibility — now more than ever — to keep informed on the war so young people can be "better voters and leaders."
Otherwise, she says, "we will be ill-prepared to handle our country when its future rests in our hands."

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