Don McCullin photographed wars as it should be done; with courage and disgust. His and his contemporaries’ photographs from the Vietnam war soured public opinion and led to stringent press controls in subsequent conflicts. When his native England fought in the Falklands, he was the natural choice to go. But he was forbidden. Murdoch’s magazines didn’t have the journalistic freedom they had previously enjoyed. Advertisers pay the bills, and few want bitter present truths juxtaposed with their hyperreal future fantasies. Corporate interests killed the hardest-hitting photojournalism. But so did we. It’s natural to run away from neediness and disease. We do so while walking in the street; we’ll do so when we buy. Who wants to see a starving child watching you over a full English breakfast? Or ebola victims in the plastic surgeon’s waiting room? Better sex tips and sports instead. But more than that; suppose some worldly editor believes in a duty to inform. People are power; change their focus and they’ll act. How long until these altruistic editors realised that power yielded goes against the Tao? Well-meaning warnings against paedophiles have made us scared to see the beauty of childhood. Crime is down while fears are up. The FBI reports that a largely publicised event such as the anthrax letters can trigger 15 copycat events. Published suicides cause more suicides. Who can suggest that, sending food to alleviate one famine, we caused a population boom that the land couldn’t hope to sustain?
Don Corleone chose oranges. Imagine you were selling them. If you could, wouldn’t you want to make them bigger? Brighter? Sell more and buy more groves? But if you could, and you can, wouldn’t you want to safeguard your special seeds, setting up a subscription service to secure future profits? Wouldn’t you want to stop farmers from reusing them year after year as they’ve done traditionally? If it’s possible to change the style, it’s possible to change the substance too. Take fruit; it’s bigger, brighter, more beautiful, because that’s what looks good, and that’s what we buy. But it tastes of the chemicals it’s grown in and it’s not only not as good for us as natural fruit, it’s proven to actually be bad. ‘Organic’ isn’t anything special until healthy normality grows rare. Some seeds are manipulated to work only once, leaving a barren field by design. They spread in the wind; neighbouring farms are sued, and the real plants are irrevocably damaged. You better hope the pretty new copies really catch on; you wouldn’t want the company that owns them to go bankrupt, not with what they’ve already laid claim to. Keep buying; your local supermarket is full of their creations, and they’ve lobbied hard enough to ensure that you don’t even have the information to choose substance over style.