Terrorism is a hotly discussed subject, and a debated word to define.  The International Encyclopedia of Terrorism defines it as “the selective or indiscriminate use of violence in order to bring about political change by inducing fear” (Barnett 15). Any person or group of people can use this tactic on any other for whatever in the name of whatever political or social vision they have. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter – it all depends on whose side you are on.  Fairness is another thing many seek after. Fox News claims that its reports are “fair and balanced.” The United States promises its citizens the right to a “fair trial.” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “fair” as “marked by impartiality and honesty: free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism.” Therefore, any piece of work meant to persuade its audience to hold one point of view on an issue regarded as terrorism is innately unfair.

Bloody Sunday is a persuasive film, not an unbiased documentary – if there can be one. Although it’s not a documentary, the documentary-style cinematography makes the film seem more real and unbiased. The cinematography techniques include gritty film quality, short scenes, and camera motion. The film quality is dark and grainy. Faces are not in soft focus to make them more beautiful or to cover flaws, but are shown as a person would see them face-to-face. Scenes are unconventionally cut: the camera fades out and in multiple times, even though the scene hasn’t changed. It makes the cuts seems more rough, more realistic.  During the events of Bloody Sunday, the camera moves and shakes as if somebody were filming while running down the street. This puts the viewer right in the midst of action, rather than merely being an observer. The cinematography adds immediacy and results in a seemingly more credible point of view.

Bloody Sunday aims to evoke sympathy for the Northern Irish by portraying that the paramilitary over-reacted upon trying to keep the crowd under control. To address the issue of whether the movie is fair in coming to this conclusion, we can analyze the content and lack of content in the movie. The movie does show that violence was initiated by a rouge group of marchers who were throwing stones, and the paramilitary – in defense – initially reacted by spraying the crowd with water, gassing them, and shooting them with rubber bullets. The rioters started the conflict, and the military used non-lethal disbursement techniques first. Shooting the crowd was not an immediate irrational reaction. In this respect, the movie is “fair” by showing the British’s motivation for opening fire. The clincher in persuading the audience towards sympathizing with the Irish is that the British relentlessly continued, killing innocent Irish who showed no sign of aggression, were waving white handkerchiefs, and clearly backing down and running away. The movie blames the massacre on the paramilitary, highlighting their miscommunication and self-justification.

The movie takes this side to speak for the victims and out against the government declarations of the event. The Widgery Tribunal was held immediately after Bloody Sunday and brought the government to an official conclusion. Although Widgery accused the soldiers’ firing as “bordering on reckless,” there was no disciplinary action taken against any of them (Bloody Sunday). The movie strives to show the “other” side of the Widgery Tribunal and give justice to the people.

One critique for the movie’s content, and therefore its message, is that it only shows the events immediately prior to Bloody Sunday. Within the year prior to Bloody Sunday, there were casualties on both the Irish and British sides. An “Internment without Trial” was issued on August 9, 1971 (Geraghty 45). Before the internment, at least two Irish rioters (Geraghty 45) and ten British soldiers were killed (English 141). After the internment, twenty-one Irish marchers were killed in the three days of the Flashpoint March (English 141), and thirty more British soldiers were killed (Geraghty 45). The previous British casualties makes the paramilitary’s assumption that the rioters on Bloody Sunday were armed seem more plausible, and therefore making their firing at the crowd more “justified.” Had the movie shown the events in the year prior, the events on Bloody Sunday may have been perceived as the paramilitary rightly retaliating at the rioters. Since these events are not shown, the Irish civil rights marchers are perceived more so as innocent civil activists.

Bloody Sunday portrayed the events of the day as accurately as possible, according to historical records and eyewitness accounts – even the portions that do not glamorize the Irish. However, an accurate depiction of events does not necessarily result in a fair and unbiased depiction of events. Because of the timeline and specific pieces of the historical account that were chosen for the movie, the viewer is taken on a journey that ultimately brings them to sympathize with the plight of the Irish. In the end, the Irish activists become the freedom fighters and the British paramilitary take the role of the tyrannical governmental agents. This perspective is neither fair nor balanced for either group, nor should it be, as histories and media are in a perpetual tug-of-war alternately speaking for the winners and for the losers.

Works Cited

Barnett, Brooke, Amy Reynolds. Terrorism and the Press: an Uneasy Relationship. New York: P. Lang, 2009.

“‘Bloody Sunday’ report excuses Army.” BBC. 19 Apr. 1972. Web. 16 Feb. 2010.

English, Richard. Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA. Pan Books, 2004.

“fair.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2010. Merriam-Webster Online. 16 February 2010.

Geraghty, Tony. The Irish War. New York: HarperCollins Ltd, 2001. Print.