Opinion

David Rohde

Will a billion ‘selfies’ cause us to miss history?

David Rohde
Dec 18, 2013 19:32 UTC

This week, Ron Haviv described to me the first time one of his photographs changed history.

The acclaimed war photographer was surrounded by his life’s work, which is now on exhibit in New York’s Anastasia Photo gallery. At age 23, Haviv took a photograph of supporters of Panamanian dictator, General Manuel Noriega, beating the country’s recently elected opposition vice president.

What is striking about the image is not just the crimson blood covering the man’s shirt. It is the Panamanian soldier standing a few feet away — doing nothing to protect him. The photograph appeared on the cover of Time, Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report. Months later, President George H.W. Bush cited the riveting image in his speech justifying the U.S. invasion of Panama.

“All of the sudden,” said Haviv, a longtime colleague and friend, “I had this understanding that the work I was doing was going out into the world and creating and causing a reaction. It helped cement my desire to do this for a living.”

A quarter century later, photography is our predominant means of communication. Dizzying technological advances allow a mind-boggling number of images — half-a-billion a day — to be shot and posted online. Yet the emergence of the Web and smartphones has made it harder than ever for photographers to earn a living.

Honor Mandela by stopping a genocide

David Rohde
Dec 11, 2013 19:53 UTC

As South Africans cheered President Barack Obama’s speech at the funeral of Nelson Mandela on Tuesday, a nation of 4.6 million people 2,500 miles north was being torn apart by religious hatred.

Muslim civilians in the Central African Republic, clutching machetes and crude, homemade weapons, prepared to fight off marauding Christians. Christians were forming self-defense militias in other parts of a country the size of Texas, to prevent Muslims from slitting their throats.

“We drove through some villages where every single person has picked up arms,” Peter Bouckaert, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, told me in a telephone interview from the republic on Tuesday. “Children as young as 11 have picked up daggers or have knives or even hunting rifles.”

From Kiev to Kabul, the promise of prosperity

David Rohde
Dec 5, 2013 15:35 UTC

In Kiev, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have taken to the streets to demand the government join the European Union, in the hopes it will spur economic growth. In Kabul, Afghan leaders overwhelmingly voted to have American troops remain for another decade, in the hopes they will maintain a “war and aid economy” that has brought them unprecedented riches.

As a fiscally constrained and war-weary Washington confronts its foreign policy challenges, events in Ukraine and Afghanistan show that economic incentives can play a major role in addressing them. Younger generations in both countries are eager for prosperity, reduced corruption and a place in a globalized economy. Globalism is challenging cronyism.

In Ukraine, many motives are driving the young demonstrators, who have been protesting since President Viktor Yanukovich abruptly announced that he would not sign an association agreement with the European Union. But a key belief voiced by protesters is that adopting EU-mandated judicial reforms would reduce the country’s staggering levels of corruption.

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