Too much is not enough

The Economist leads its print edition this week with the headline The fog of war wherein they talk about how the war’s actual course is being obscured by all the scattershot realtime imagery. Who would have thought that too much information would give us the same kind of confusion in the 21st century that a severe lack of information gave von Clausewitz in the 19th century? But it appears to be so.

Inasmuch as the news imagery has the power to motivate strong emotion (as opposed to illustrating the strategic balance sheet), al-Jazeera seems to be taking the lead. If your primary intent is to show that war is cruel and messy, focusing a high-quality camera on the gaping wounds of civilians is hard to beat.
On the Reason website this week, Tim Cavanaugh writes a good piece on how the hard-hitting al-Jazeera network is thrashing the limp rah-rah coverage on CNN. As he points out in his conclusion, he’s not making any claims about the actual war, but as far as the battle of images is concerned, “there hasn’t even been a stalemate. So far, it’s been a stunning victory for the Arabs.”

In another part of the Economist this week, they also single out the Arab news network for its recent surge in popularity: Al-Jazeera comes of age. If you want to be seen by 45 million Arabs quickly, it’s the only way to go. By the way, in the small print below the article, there is a link to an interesting al-Jazeera page on the Cursor web site.