The August issue of Media, War & Conflict is out here. The issue opens with an article 'Surprise Homecomings and Vicarious Sacrifices', presented by Lisa Silvestri at the MWC 5th anniversary conference at Royal Holloway in April. Below is the editors' summary of Lisa's piece and the rest of the articles. We hope you will enjoy reading this issue.
Much academic labour has been invested in studies of how the media behave when a nation prepares for war and wages it. Relatively little has gone into studies of media behaviour in the ebbing of wars, and in their aftermath, although the part media play in post-conflict rebuilding and reconciliation has been examined (see for example Best et al. in Media, War and Conflict 4, 3).
Two articles in this issue of Media, War and Conflict turn our attention to this relatively neglected area. Lisa Silvestri discusses YouTube homecoming videos showing American servicemen being reunited with their families, especially their children. She suggests that through these video presentations of the emotional sacrifices made by the families of soldiers, audiences are able to experience a 'vicarious sacrifice'. Such means of vicarious involvement in war are important in an age when for most citizens in North America and much of Europe there is no direct experience of wars which the soldiers of their nations are fighting, not any perceptible effect on their lives. They are important in raising awareness of war and its costs, and of specific conflicts which otherwise some people would be entirely oblivious to. They are also important in shaping public opinion, and, as Silvestri points out, in inviting membership of a national community. Some readers might take issue with the general characterisation of these videos as 'sentimental', and also see more opportunities for audience identification in them other than those with the children which Silvestri focusses on. They must however offer some opportunity for idealisation, and for occluding what it is the soldier has returned from, in a way that news bulletins reporting the latest casualties in Helmand, with their names and photographs, do not. Audience identifications with the families of those dead men will not be pleasurable. Individual homecomings, while not in reality necessarily marking the end of war, will evoke the sense of its coming end, without confronting the audience with its full costs. Yet they will leave it open for audiences to choose from the full range of views of what the war was about, its damage and results.
Read on here [pdf].