A straightforward remark, but then, on the next page, in her chapter titled “Possible Death” she states: “Images of possible death show more detail of death than do pictures of presumed death, requiring the public to invoke less of contingency, the imagination and the emotions in engaging with what it sees.”
Tedium aside, these points (and same string of words) are mentioned over and over via use of varying examples and degrees, albeit not varying enough to avoid sounding incredibly repetitive. Zelizer argues that about-to-die images play to the emotions and imagination because they depict human suffering, anguish and also the fear of death. Yet anyone can view images of the dead bodies piled up in Dachau or Auschwitz and not only conjure up similar emotions to when one is witnessing near death images, but who is to say what image makes one person imagine or feel something more than another?
Emotions are subjective, and people have different means for imagining. Perhaps seeing a child left for dead offers up an image of this child’s mother, which in turn, causes one to imagine the mother’s story. Other than mere exploitation or fascination, seeing victims jumping out of the Twin Towers is no better or worse emotionally on an American than if one sees them upon impact.
Yet the biggest flaw is that amid Zelizer’s presumptions, she belabors the obvious. In the section discussing how the public is moved through emotion, she states that seeing people suffer makes people sad and that certain images “act as a trigger for emotional release.” Not only is this condescendingly obvious and stated many times before, there is no adequate discussion as far as how the media’s use of emotional manipulation caters to the lowest common denominator.
The one point of irony is that despite Zelizer’s argument for the imaginative and emotional results these images can have on the public, her book is not only lifeless and repetitive — it leaves one feeling empty. Zelizer argues that: “the emotions, imagination, and contingency have also been central to memory work,” (there are those string of words again) yet unfortunately there won’t be much to remember or imagine after being belabored over and over with the obvious.