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Wednesday, 08 June 2022


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The Emmet Till photo helped focus and define the civil rights movement, “Napalm Girl,” the Viet Nam War. And yet, we have no photos whatsoever to help focus public attention on our continuous, mass gun slaughters...

Have a look at the Wikipedia entry for Phan Thi Kim Phuc, the girl in the picture. There’s a reference to a film clip taken by a crew from ITN (a UK news station). There are also some additional images, taken (I think) from stills from the news footage.

The news footage (which I’ve seen) doesn’t have anything like the impact of Nick Ut’s photo. The film crew was off to one side, and as a result the children are just seen running through the frame, they’re not running straight at the film camera. There’s no ominous dark background either (again, because of the changed angle) and it all looks much less ‘compressed’, possibly because the film cameras had wide-angle lenses on them. So definitely one of those occasions when the frozen image taken by a still camera was the more memorable.

I am one who has called, for the obvious reasons, the release of images from mass shootings. But after some time and thought I am less sure real changes could be made. There just isn't enough anti-gun sentiment nation wide to believe that the searing images of torn bodies, even those of children, would convince most of the country to call for serious gun prohibitions.

Even if changes can be made to gun ownership, it will take at least two generations to truly effect gun violence in the U.S., and God only knows what will happen during that time.

By the time Nick Ut's image was made and released the anti-war sentiment nation wide was already strong, and American troops were heading home.

It's interesting to me to add some nuance to this story. To read point of view of the person who we've collectively labelled, "Napalm Girl" now, some fifty years later.

Jim Fallows (fallows.substack.com) covers the issues for and against explicit imagery in these events to prevent anodyne coverage. In his most recent article, he describes press coverage of Emmett Till, Kim Phuk, Abu Ghraib, and now AR-15 mass killings. He prefers to use the rear view of the running kids, which show Kim Phuk's extensive burns. Fallows is especially qualified to comment on the AR-15. His first book covered the technical reasons for the extreme damage to soft tissue that the high velocity 22 calibre bullets cause as well as the bureaucratic blockages that made its official US equivalent weapon, the M-16, unreliable in the conditions of Vietnam. This was never a weapon for any non-military purpose.

Because an AR-15, modified to shoot continuously, leaves almost nothing recognizable of a small body close to the shooter, he does not recommend sharing the photographs.

@scott kirkpatrick:

"His first book covered the technical reasons [...] its official US equivalent weapon, the M-16, unreliable in the conditions of Vietnam."

Much of Fallows work on this is available on line: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1981/06/m-16-a-bureaucratic-horror-story/545153/

With the correct gunpowder, the M-16 was reliable. Why the army insisted on a different gunpowder...

This article is grisly. I can't read the word “lethality” without swallowing hard.

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