Events overtaken by photographs

May 13, 2004|by TIM ROWLAND

Right now. Before it's too late. Just do it. Burn your digital camera and throw your e-mail program in the trash. Get rid of them both while there is still time, I implore you. How many more lives do these "technological marvels" have to destroy before we come to the rational and collective conclusion that they just ain't worth it? The risk outweighs the reward.

You think Bob Wise, Martha Stewart and the entire cast of Enron is wishing they never heard the words "You've got mail?" You think Lynndie England is wishing right now she'd never heard of "megapixels?"

Digital photos can be whisked around the world before the sender has a chance for shutterbug remorse. Traditionally, you might write a letter telling off your boss at night, but it will sit on the kitchen table until the morning, by which time you have thought better of dropping it into the mail.


With digital, you click "send" before you have a chance to think "You know? Maybe associating my face with the southern reaches of the Iraqi anatomy isn't the greatest of career moves."

These amateur photographers are the men and women that Pentagon insiders are calling "the six morons that lost the war," because they were grinning like the lunatic in the Pink Floyd song "Brain Damage" while forcing birthday suited Iraqi prisoners into naughty poses. Seems as if they ought to be taking more of an interest in the morons who gave the orders, but that's just me.

And a digital camera caught it all. With digital, there is no thought to wasting film, so you just snap and snap and snap away. And snap they did - more than 1,000 shots in "what I did on my summer vacation" style are popping up all over the place. One thousand photos! I think I speak for digital camera users everywhere when I ask: "Where do they get their batteries?" Mine die faster than middle-age rock stars.

I think it might have been all right if they just hadn't had these wide, happy smiles and a penchant for the big ol' thumbs up. Were they more somber, they could have claimed the prisoners were standing in line for the shower. Instead, they all have this "drop your pants at the office party and sit on the photocopier" look that just doesn't become officers of a well-run - well, I can't really call it a penal institution with a straight face, can I?

Poor Lynndie England, who hails from just up the road in Fort Ashby, W.Va., has become the poster girl for the scandal, although if you believe she and her friends were the masterminds of the abuse, you probably still think you can fill up the tank of your SUV for less than $50.

West Virginia just can't catch a break, can it? The glow was just starting to fade from the heroism of West Virginia favorite daughter Jessica Lynch, and now - now this.

"What is offensive to me is that we have generals and the secretary of defense hiding behind a 20-year-old farm girl from West Virginia who lives in a trailer park," said England's attorney.

Oh boy, had to play the trailer park card, didn't he? (On that topic, I did see two words I never thought I'd see linked when one news report referred to her home as a "spacious trailer.")

I have to agree with the attorney, though. The photos show every Muslim hot-button being pushed - nudity, man-touching, female domination, etc. Unless Lynndie was reading a western translation of the Koran while she was bagging groceries at the I.G.A., I have trouble believing all this was her idea.

But keeping her eye on the birdie cooked her goose.

And how many people has e-mail destroyed? I can't even begin to say. E-mail programs should really come with some user guidelines:

No. 32a.) If you are a public executive, it is inadvisable to refer to a female cabinet member as "puddin'."

And why do so many white-collar criminals have a penchant for outlining their crimes in a text box? Do they think the FBI is still running Windows '95? If armed robbers were like business executives, they'd write "hey phil, going to hit the bigupchuck st. liquor store 11:30 thursday. keep this under your hat - ah, what the heck, forward message to your entire address book, lol."

Takes a while to master the technology, I guess. Just take my advice, guys, and next time you have an urge to put on women's underpants, at least have the good sense to leave the digital camera in the box.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at

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