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The battle recalls the aftermath of last year's Elian Gonzalez raid, when the Cuban boy's Miami relatives and supporters of his father touted dueling images: Elian screaming before a submachine gun-toting INS agent, and a happy boy reunited with his dad. Editors and producers thus challenged will often use both sides' images. But a Solomon-like approach is not automatically evenhanded. News organizations tend to present conflicts from a perspective in which equal time--or photoplay--constitutes fairness. But to show a slain Jew for a slain Palestinian may imply that both sides have suffered equal losses, in a conflict in which 459 people, many of them children and most of them Palestinian, have died. Or it may imply equal culpability, in an eruption that began with Palestinian attacks. Likewise, even splitting the difference between Screaming Elian and Smiling Elian briefly changed the question from Whose child is this? to Did the Feds go too far? As long as images hold this power to shape debate, photographers' shots will continue to fly alongside the riflemen's, because every photograph tells the truth, except for the other guy's.
--By James Poniewozik