Do I Need to See
wife walked away from the computer. “I don’t need to see that!”:
Colonel Gadhafi captured, terrified, pleading for his life—thanks to a
cell phone video—and covered in blood.
Although the local papers
refrained from publishing the photo of his bloody corpse on their front
pages, the damage had been already done. All over the Web, events like
this are instantly broadcast using wireless technology and the simple
and powerful video cameras present in most every new phone.
wondered to myself: Do I need to see that? It gave me a sick feeling,
not only witnessing one man’s terror, but also hearing the jubilant
shouts of the rebel fighters who were, if press reports are true, to
execute him moments later. Now, I hear that people are lining up to
take photos of his corpse at a local butcher shop and, once again, I
ran across a photo on the internet which showed multiple hands and
phones held above his body.
On one hand I feel that, by seeing
the worst we are capable of, people will be aware of the dangers posed
by the mob. On the other, it seems clear that routinely seeing such
atrocities on our screens must, as a side effect, lead to a hardening
of our hearts and a growing acceptance of brutality.
study found that using harsh language and expletives lead to a greater
level of and acceptance of violence in that person’s life. If that is
true, then how will the constant flow of it in images splashed across
our screens affect us? Likely, it already has.
My wife has a
point. Not only does she find such images disturbing, she is right
about whether there is a need to see them at all. I am reminded of
another story that happened locally: a man falsely accused of another’s
murder and threatened with death by strangers on the internet.
urge to make everything “instant” makes it hard to have any kind of
distance (and time for reflection) on events. Images are powerful,
communicating huge amounts of information, while, at the same time,
bringing us a world we barely have time to assimilate. Then, within
hours, we are moving on, affected, no doubt, by what we’ve seen but
unsure how, exactly, we might feel for having had that experience.
Sometimes, I wish more of us would say, “I don’t need to see that.”
(October 23, 2011)
2002 to date
Weekly Features with descriptions)