Two hundred thirty-three years ago, Paul Revere printed and circulated this etching of the Boston Massacre. This image sent a fairly clear message about what was in fact a very messy situation. There can be little doubt that Revere and other revolutionary propagandists made use of the event to turn the tide of public opinion against the British.
Why then are we blind to the damage in image that can be done by firing into a crowd? This will not hurt the administration’s position so much here at home, which for whatever reason appears unassailable, but it can toss a lot of people off the fence who are ambivalent about the US occupation, or worse, can push people toward the ethical order of an Islamic state.
It’s a bad thing to happen, if only because armed soldiers firing into protesting crowds — regardless of the actual context — carries with it a pretty dark symbolic message.