Images of war are used by US media outlets to boost ratings. From the on location photo journalist, to the deputy picture editor who ultimately makes the decision whether a photograph is publishable, the depiction of war images shown to the US public is heavily constrained institutionally, by the news agency, and by the established rules on what images can be depicted.
The constraints placed on news media agencies as to the content of images being displayed to the US public borders on censorship and has a fundamental function of shielding the viewers from the inevitable atrocities of war. US news media organizations have constraints on how they can represent images of war. Some of these restrictions include the depiction of sexual violence and body parts, both a consequence of war. The constraints and rules placed on news media agencies, from media "gatekeeping”, to government, imposes rules as to what images are permitted.Along with the financial pressures of the high cost of having journalists in the conflict zone, a journalistic environment is created which not only fosters the photo journalists to self-edit and self-censor , but also restricts the types of photographs taken. This results in an inaccurate and idolized portrayal of war. The pressures on photojournalists to produce images which captivate the US audience, depicting impact and drama, while being sensitive to not showing gruesome images, constricts the photojournalists from portraying an accurate representation the consequences of war. The contradiction between the US public’s demand for images which impact the audience and show controversy, while adhering to the rules placed on them to prohibit the depiction of the true hell and suffering that war brings to all who come in contact with it, constrains news media agencies.
Since World War II the US has been involved in a plethora of military conflicts, many which the US public has limited knowledge about. Although the U.S. is quick to intervene and show force, the consequences of their presence is seldom understood. The general disconnect between the U.S. public and the role that the U.S. plays as a rule enforcer in the world causes a lack of understanding of the impact the US military has had on many different countries. Images of the conflict are deliberately “tamed” in order to ensure that the public is not turned off by gruesome images of war. The disconnection between what is shown and what is actually happening on the ground creates an idealized vision of war and the impact of war. Most people in the United States have never experienced war and have a glorified, “Hollywood-like” impression of war. This phenomenon can be observed in many aspects of US society. From the glorification of past wars to the marketing of war video games the idealization of war is deeply rooted in the American psyche.
If the US public was exposed to “real” images of war it would be increasingly difficult for the government to justify military action to their citizens. By prohibiting images of rape, torture and dismemberment the US public is unable to grasp the true identity and consequences of war and those who suffer. Although images of war can be disturbing for a viewer, it should be up to the observer to come to their own conclusions. The self-censored environment, created by news media institutions and the U.S. government, has constrained the journalists and do not allow them to portray the images which they feel best describes the situation in a conflict zone. The U.S. publics’ inability to grasp the consequences of war results in an apathetic attitude towards military intervention.
 Westwell, G. “Accidental Napalm Attack and the Hegemonic Visions of America’s War in Vietnam,” Critical Studies in Media Communication, Routledge.