The main story on the BBC site today was a report on the USA’s attack on suspected Al-Qaeda terrorists in Somalia.
While the story itself was a faintly depressing account of yet another messy episode in a country where previous Western intervention has brought more harm than good, it was the picture that got my attention.
Without any images from the ground (Somalia is probably the only place in the world more dangerous for journalists than Iraq right now), the BBC had resorted to a library picture of the AC-130, the plane that carried out the strike.
The picture showed the plane in action, with flares or missiles streaming out of it, presumably onto some unsuspecting ‘ragheads’ below.
A large chunk of the story had also been given over to describing the plane’s ‘capabilites’, all of which added to the feeling that what I was reading was little more than propaganda.
After all, what can we really know of this other than what is relayed by the US military?
It feels as though we are living in an increasingly militaristic society.
Daily accounts in the newspapers of coalition operations in Iraq and Afghanistan do little except desensitise us to the nastiness of it all.
But we lap up the descriptions of the hardware involved; the accounts of Royal Marines ‘engaging’ the Taleban in ‘fierce firefights’, US unmanned Predator drones deployed against sinister Arabs in the hinterland between Iraq and Syria.
The wars we have embarked on in the name of freedom are presented as clinically as possible. But I doubt many of us will truly understand what it is really like.
We will never have to stand in a bombed-out village and explain to the survivors that their husbands, wives, sons and daughters had just been obliterated mistakenly, or because they were inadvertently present at the same time as someone who may or may not have been involved in terrorist atrocities against the West.
We will never have to see a suicide bomber detonate himself in a crowded market-place.
Technology now brings us closer to world events than it ever has before. And yet, paradoxically, we seem further removed from the reality of those events.
Instead we stay cocooned, unwilling to acknowledge the lunacy of what is happening elsewhere in the world.