I read a provocative article this morning from Slate senior editor Dahlia Lithwick concerning the Abu Ghraib prison images -- pictures that once stung the conscience of this nation, and that now have lost their sting.
Lithwick writes with remarkable clarity when she argues that "Yesterday's disgrace is today's ordinary, and that—with a little time and a little help from the media—we can normalize almost anything in the span of a few short years."
In fact, the passage of the president's detainee bill in the Senate will put into law, and make legal, what horrfied so many in the pictures only three years ago.
Remember those incredibly real pictures of naked and humiliated prisoners being the subject of torture? Remember the dog attacking a terrified Iraqi or the guard pulling a prisoner along with a leash around his neck?
What has happened to the power of an image as its becomes stuffed into the recesses of memory? Why do these pictures no longer make us cry or scream with outrage?
With time pictures -- especially iconic images -- come to mean different things for different people. Take the Abu Ghraib prison pictures for example. What these images may mean to many Americans three years later is quite different than what they mean to al Queda operatives seeking new recruits in Iraq.
Terror has a funny way of creeping into popular culture -- just ask Jack Bauer, a.k.a Mr. Torture, of the hit television series "24". Americans have an freakish fascination with pain and humiliation, especially when it enters the fertile imagination through film, television, and video games.