Censoring American War Crimes
After years of hating the iconic photo, Kim Phuc came to embrace it as a powerful tool to teach peace.
Censoring American War Crimes
By Abby Zimet / commondreams.org

Facebook has backed down amidst outraged charges of censorship after deleting the iconic photo of a naked burned Vietnamese girl fleeing a napalm attack during the Vietnam War. Demonstrating questionable journalistic standards now being increasingly challenged, the social network deleted the harrowing, Pulitzer Prize-winning image by AP photographer Nick Ut - which shows nine-year-old Kim Phuc running screaming from her village of Trang Bang after she was severely burned by napalm dropped by South Vietnamese planes on June 8, 1972 - in the name of "maintaining a safe and respectful experience for our global community."

Phuc survived. Despite years of ongoing pain and surgeries related to her burns, she now lives in Canada, runs a foundation dedicated to help other child victims of war, and sometimes speaks about the powerful impact of one of the most famous war photographs of all time taken by the Vietnamese, then-21-year-old Ut. The recent uproar came after Norwegian author Tom Egeland included it in a Facebook post about photos that changed the history of wars, and in this case perhaps helped end one. Facebook removed the picture, Egeland protested, Facebook banned him and then proceeded to remove the image several more times when it was defiantly re-posted by other high-profile Norwegians - including Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who charged, "If you edit past events or people, you change history, and you change reality."

That, critics say, is exactly what Facebook is increasingly doing in the name of common rules for all. Many have blasted the social network's random censorship moves - most famously, banning photos of breastfeeding or post-mastectomy women - as the inevitable result of using murky algorithms, not sentient journalists, to make editorial decisions. Notes one critic, “If they are in the news business, which they are, then they have to get into the world of editorial judgement.” In the case of Ut's famous photo, critics cited their ludicrous inability to figure out that the nude child in the photo is not what's obscene or pornographic; the war and its atrocities are. One critic mused the call was probably made by a 22-year-old with "no fucking idea about the importance of the picture.” Said another, “It’s almost like these are kids playing with a toy above their age bracket” - and their historic understanding.

Facebook finally relented and re-posted the image after a lengthy, fiery, much-read open letter to Mark Zuckerberg by Espen Egil Hansen, editor-in-chief and CEO of Norway's largest paper Aftenposten. Hansen blasted "the world's most powerful editor" with abusing its power and attacking "freedom of expression - and therefore democracy." Citing the very real historical implications of the debate, he wrote, "Mark, please try to envision a new war where children will be the victims of barrel bombs or nerve gas. Would you once again intercept the documentation of cruelties, just because a tiny minority might possibly be offended by images of naked children?" In the end, he notes, the ever-cogent George Orwell said it best. "If liberty means anything at all," he wrote in his preface to Animal Farm, "it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."

Norway's Prime Minister imagines a future of censorship

4.6 ·
4
What's Next
Trending Today
The Daily Show's Trevor Noah Talks With Conservative Host Tomi Lahren
14 min · 10,563 views today · "Tomi" host Tomi Lahren gives her take on the Black Lives Matter movement and explains why she lashed out against Colin Kaepernick for his national anthem protest.
This Short Film Plays Out Like an Epic Movie That Will Shake Your Soul - But the Movie Is Real, and We are The Actors
6 min · 7,954 views today · For next year, we need a resolution capable of confronting the crisis we face, and making a future worth fighting for. This short film looks back on the crisis and confusion...
Escape! From the Cult of Materialism (2016)
50 min · 3,789 views today · Does the philosophy of materialism work to destroy our identities, experience, and environment? Join narrator Daphne Ellis on a radical romp through the evidence and decide for...
Bernie Sanders: Carrier Just Showed Corporations How to Beat Donald Trump
Bernie Sanders · 3,727 views today · We need a president who can stand up to big corporations, not fold to their demands.
Who's Really to Blame for Fake News? Look in the Mirror, America.
Neal Gabler · 3,251 views today · Consider for a moment the oxymoronic concept of “fake news,” which we have been hearing so much about lately. This isn’t your typical disinformation or misinformation —...
How Mindfulness Empowers Us
2 min · 3,170 views today · Many traditions speak of the opposing forces within us, vying for our attention. Native American stories speak of two wolves, the angry wolf and the loving wolf, who both live...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 2,541 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
South Koreans Are Really Good at Protesting
2 min · 2,535 views today · South Koreans organize some of the largest and most peaceful protests in the world. Here's what makes them so good at protesting.
Corporate Giants' "Sustainable" Palm Oil Revealed as Sham
Nika Knight · 1,799 views today · Nestlé, Kellogg's, Procter & Gamble, Unilever and others are linked to child labor and forced labor in Indonesia
A Tribe Called Red and Saul Williams Offer a Powerful Prayer for Standing Rock and Beyond
5 min · 1,202 views today · Music video for "The Virus" by A Tribe Called Red, featuring Saul Williams and Chippewa Travellers.
The Most Mind-Altering Photograph of All Time
4 min · 1,115 views today · Carl Sagan narrates the story of the Pale Blue Dot, the one place we all call home. 
The 6 Grand Illusions That Keep Us Enslaved
Sigmund Fraud · 927 views today · For a magician to fool his audience his deceit must go unseen, and to this end he crafts an illusion to avert attention from reality. While the audience is entranced, the...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 916 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 867 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
How a Land High in the Western Himalayas Can Help Us Understand The Crisis of The Modern World
9 min · 842 views today · This is a clip from The Economics of Happiness. Watch it here. It's a brilliant film that was easy to put at the top of our list of the top 100 documentaries we can use to...
Why We Need Big Picture Activism
Helena Norberg-Hodge · 764 views today · Despite the countless grassroots projects already under way, the global economic juggernaut can seem too powerful to stop. But because more and more of us are becoming aware of...
The Truth About the Alt-Right
11 min · 729 views today · Our comprehensive investigation into the Alt-Right movement, including its origins, its relation to the Trump campaign and broader implications for the future. Read more: What...
The Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy
3 min · 724 views today · What is the best way to ease someone's pain and suffering? In this beautifully animated RSA Short, Dr Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic...
EU Energy Targets Will 'Increase Greenhouse Gas Emissions'
Nafeez Ahmed · 677 views today · New renewable energy plan undercuts itself by boosting dangerous wood-burning industries
Answering the Call: The American Struggle for the Right to Vote
75 min · 590 views today · Watch an exclusive and limited time online screening of Answering the Call, presented by Films For Action. If you enjoy watching, consider purchasing a DVD copy for a friend at...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Censoring American War Crimes