Recently grist.org profiled the story of Marie Gunnoe and her environmental activism about a cause which affects her directly: the coal mining industry in West Virginia, and its pollution of the water supply in the area where she lived. The grist.org story also links to Aaron Bady’s article in The New Inquiry which coves Marie’s ordeal in a bit more detail.
Marie planned to present some very powerful evidence, as the article states:
Gunnoe’s planned testimony included this photo of a child bathing in water that is the color of a pumpkin, offset at the far end of the tub by a cluster of bath-fun bubbles. Gunnoe wanted to show the committee this photo, but the presiding politicians decided it was inappropriate. (The child was, as bathing children generally are, unclothed.) So the activist presented other evidence instead: ruined streams, stories of people with polluted water and air.
Then, when she was done and preparing to leave, the Capitol Police pulled her aside. Republican members of the panel had suggested that she be questioned about child pornography.
The story goes on to opine that the water is this horrible color is what should be considered obscene, not the unclothed child. Aaron was a bit more direct in his article:
…if you dare to take a picture of child’s exposure to that poison, if you have the nerve to walk into the halls of Congress and show them the obscenity that is a child that must wash herself with poison every day, they will call you a child pornographer. They will call the police.
Not surprisingly, I concur, and I see this for what it is, a pathetic attempt by the coal industry to squash opposition by any means necessary. And they should be ashamed of themselves for it, not only for this egregious attempt at censorship, but for “crying wolf” about child pornography in the process.
It’s a rather flaccid smoke-screen for a number of things that are truly obscene. First, that the coal industry is doing this and has not been sanctioned. Second, that they think they have the right to get away with pollution which ruins the water supply for entire communities. Third, that if the coal industry wanted to use a naked child’s picture when they were lobbying, they certainly wouldn’t think twice about it, and the same (Republican) Congressmen who had the Capitol Police on speed dial wouldn’t reach for their phones at all. Yes, a double standard.
Is it really a sign of the times that a photojournalist in Vietnam had no trouble getting what is now an iconic photo published even though it contained full nudity of a nine-year-old girl?
There’s a huge difference between child pornography, and documentary photography which shows naked children. The coal industry wants to blur the lines between the two, all in the name of profit. Someone has to hold them accountable.