It seems poignant that as we mark 100 years since the start of World War One, our media screens have been saturated with death these past couple of weeks. Of course it’s hard for most of us to imagine what it was like to live through such a harrowing conflict as WWI. But surely one of the striking differences between that generation and my generation would have been the clear sense of people’s own mortality.
I wonder whether our own culture of immortality has actually made us voyeurs of death. Take for example Sky reporter Colin Brazier’s hounding for picking through an MH17 victim’s luggage. I’ve written some thoughts over at Threads reflecting on what our enthralment with death after such tragedies might actually reveal about ourselves.
Here’s a sample:
It’s easy for us to throw our pebbles at Brazier and portray him as the epitome of the shameless media machine; ruthless not in its pursuit of truth but in its sensationalising of death. But as he pointed out in his apology piece, the uniqueness of the MH17 was that there were few limits. There were no real authorities on the ground: no cordons or police tape. The normal rules and expectations were not present, and so effectively it became ‘anything goes’.
And yet what was feeding that culture? Can we really deny that it’s our own eyes and minds that want news like this? Evidently we believe some journalists can go too far for our liking, yet the reality was that social media shows it was possible to go much further, apparently without the same ethical outrage. Hence, even the film clip of Brazier’s actions went viral, thus becoming something that we were now effectively permitted to view.
Read more here.