Helen Nelder on What I Just Shot
"News is what somebody, somewhere
wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising."
Fundamentally this is a play about war and
– like the circles in Dante's hell – it ultimately
affects and infects everybody. Ordinary citizens, aid workers,
journalists, soldiers, the environment and those outside watching
events unfold. It is always a tragedy, in the true sense of
the word. In Greek times tragedy meant a balance between free
will and fate, there is a choice and in acknowledging that
we have a choice, we can own responsibility for the consequences
of our actions. We are all implicated if we do nothing.
Journalists and editors make choices about
some of what we see and understand, their job is not easy
in today's competitive world. We also have a choice about
what we do in our daily lives and how we treat each other
and whether we challenge those in power to behave responsibly.
We can all be journalists to an extent, it is possible to
find out so much on the internet and many journalists chose
this way of bypassing censorship to bring us the truth.
"When truth is replaced by silence,
the silence is a lie."
Clearly I have been inspired by those photo-journalists
who have risked (and in some cases lost) their lives to bring
us the truth. Many ideas and some speeches from the play are
a direct response to photographs which dare to show with compassion
and without sensationalism the human cost of war.
Unlike police and soldiers, journalists are
not trained to deal with the trauma of war but still they
expose themselves to the danger and horror. The police officers
who are most vulnerable to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
are those who arrive first, their job is to report back accurately
to headquarters and not in the first instance help the victims
what they have found. In terms of PTSD journalists are equally
vulnerable as they are tasked with not helping people, they
witness what is happening, many feel compelled to take photos
they know will never be published just to bear witness to
unspeakable horror. We too, as consumers of news are likely
to suffer, feel overwhelmed by the misery in the world and
feel powerless to stop it, so we switch off – the TV,
our emotions and intellect.
"Do you want me to tell you something
really subversive? Love is everything it's cracked up
to be. That's why people are so cynical about it. It
really is worth fighting for, for being brave and risking
everything for. And the trouble is, if you don't risk
anything you risk even more."
People in power have an interest in that
happening and both consciously and unconsciously they can
bury unpalatable news, through manipulation and silence, they
can overwhelm us with meaningless images. They can manufacture
consent – "If you're not with us you're against
us" – and imply that if we don't want war we are
not supporting our men and women over there, we are unpatriotic.
I personally believe that if journalists
are doing their job well and many of them are bearing witness
at great personal cost, it is not enough for us to do the
same, we have to take action and brilliantly, excitingly,
that is definitely happening. Public opinion does matter and
it can and does change things.
What I Just Shot is an attempt on
my part to reach out to like minded people and to stimulate
the debate about the role of the media in our society and
about our responsibility to do what we can to change the world
for the better.