What I Just Shot by Helen Nelder

Helen Nelder on What I Just Shot

"News is what somebody, somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising."

Lord Northcliffe

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."

Yevgeni Yevtushenko

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."

Erica Jong

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.


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