In Sontag’s first chapter, she discusses the repercussions of war in connection to Virginia Woolf’s Three Guineas. Sontag first mentions the inequality between men and women that surrounds the idea of war: men often like war, while women typically don’t. When someone talks about war, people often use the term “we,” however, “we” could mean anyone, unless it is specified. Sontag then goes further with this idea of “we” and connects it to the pictures that are used as “shock-pictures” and who they are specifically aimed at. Pictures are used to bring attention to a matter that could otherwise be ignored by an unaffected population. However these same pictures that can do good, can also be used to manipulate people in situations. Sontag uses an example of showing propaganda to the Croats and the Serbs (the propaganda in this case is the same picture of dead children), in order to get a rise out of them. Sontag ends this chapter with noting that Ernst Friedrich discusses that while war can cause mass hysteria, sometimes it is the only option to get back to some normalcy (War Against War).
One-Sentence Description: Sontag uses authors who have previously written about war, to describe the repercussions it can have on a population.
In her sixth chapter, Sontag specifically talks about the media’s affect on the emotions of the people experiencing an event. For the most part, she talks about tragedy and suffering. For example, she talks about the fact that a car accident doesn’t typically cause all the back up on a highway, it is the people that cannot help themselves from looking at the accident that cause the traffic. In the case of the car accident people cannot look away, however, when it comes to mangled bodies and war, it is an instinct to look away or change the channel. Sontag mentions how media uses images and videos to grab the attention of the viewer, in hopes of forcing people that would be otherwise unaffected, to see the problems occurring elsewhere. She goes further with this point, noting that emotion plays an imperative role in what people choose to look at or not look at. When a person sees a mangled body, people become afraid. Emotion is “human,” fear is human just like sympathy is human. It is hard to see something that instills fear in oneself. It is easy to look away and pretend something is not really happening, that that mangled body is not real, because fear blocks it out.
One-Sentence Description: Sontag discusses the impact the media (pictures, newspapers, TV, etc.) can have on the emotions, specifically sympathy, of people that are and are not directly impacted by the matter.
In Sontag’s eighth chapter she notes that an image is a window into humanity. A picture is worth a thousand words, and what an individual is doing in a picture should be studied very closely because that image was chosen for a reason. Humans are capable of forgiveness, however, we are also capable of evil. Sontag states that peace can only be accomplished if all wrong doings, all evil acts performed in the past, are forgotten. She goes on further to say that doing terrible things is part of being human. People prefer to have a good feeling than a bad one, thus when it is an option, humans choose the good feeling. However at the same time, Sontag mentions that if we could do something about what an image portrays, the image might not have the same effect on the emotions of a person.While an image is not like seeing something in person, it is an opportunity to experience the world and attempt to sympathize with those directly affected.
One-Sentence Description: Images allow for doors to be open, permitting people to have a glimpse of a situation, and also close doors, by enabling people to look away.