Notes: I'd been thinking about the low-key reaction to the Herrington report about beating up prisoners in Iraq, and also about the International Committee of the Red Cross report about activities tantamount to torture at the Guantanamo Bay prison. There hasn't been a public outcry like there was about Abu Ghraib. The main difference is that there are no pictures this time around.

Then, I came across a report on societal anxiety in NewsWeek which dealt in part with the visceral reaction that images cause. The following is from that piece:

If you're crossing Fifth Avenue and you suddenly see in the periphery of your vision a bus coming at you and you jump back on the curb, that's the sensory-visual connection to what's called the amygdala, which gave you the fear response that caused you to jump back so you're safe. When you stop and think about why you responded, that's the frontal lobe. It explains why you responded as you did.

Are we really living with more anxiety than past generations who lived during the two world wars?

Absolutely, because of the imagery. Let's talk about World War II. I don't remember it, but how did they learn what happened in the war? They read about it or heard about it on the radio. It was real, but it is not as real as turning on CNN and seeing those images of soldiers being carried off the field or various images we are seeing all the time. There are higher levels of anxiety in the 1990s compared to the 1950s. There's another fact about children in the 1980s experiencing levels of anxiety higher than psychiatric patients in the 1950s.


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