Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Please, No Pictures

Several commenters have suggested that it would be a good idea, and perhaps a more forceful presentation, to have actual images of those dying in these terrorist attacks superimposed on the bloody borders project, to make the reality more vivid.

One argument, a good one, is that we tend to experience only sanitized versions of the ugliness of terror and war. Another says that an accumulation of data — including images — makes us more knowledgeable and objective.

I disagree. Such images either traumatize us or they inure us to the awful reality. There is already so much “imaged” violence in our culture already. To add to it seems a muchness.

No doubt this kind of presentation would draw more people in to view it. There is something about seeing horror vicariously that can ease some people, and make voyeurs of others.

This doesn’t mean there are no occasions on which images are not appropriate. Every September 11th, we need to re-visit those scenes, to commemorate the victims and to honor their memory. But to see them all the time? What does that do to the survivors or their families? How do they dare to turn on their televisions, or even their PCs, and not be afraid of being hit with their loss all over again? Nothing would ever have a chance to heal.

There is a brisk trade in Islamic countries in videos of the beheadings and the burned bodies on the bridge. Do we want to be like them, marketing horror for others’ enjoyment? Put one of your children, or your brother, or your father in those scenes and they suddenly become the violation and obscenity that they truly are.

No, please, no pictures. They are burned in my memory from that first day. I don’t want to see them again. I remember only too well what happened. For future generations, it is important to save them, so they can experience the horror for themselves. But we know. We have the hollow place in our chest, in our stomach, whenever we even mentally gaze at those falling bodies. They are someone’s parents, children, brothers and sisters. If six degrees of separation is true, some of these people belong to us in ways we cannot yet fathom.

Let the dead lie in peace under the tons of rubble which fell on them. Let them lie in whatever dignity and courage they found in making that terrible, endless fall.


mobile mineral said...

I can understand that very well Dymphna. And yet I still wish that there were a way to convey the horror of what is behind each of those little blips. For example, someone was beheaded today in Thailand, and eventually the Baron is going to enter that into the database and it will show up as a little blip. (Not to mention the blasts in a temple in India today).

Of course, all statistics, from deaths due to car crashes to those due to coconuts falling on heads hide all the sadness behind them, but your statistics are "masking" what in some cases is just pure evil, IMO.

How could the little blips be replaced with tears or perhaps blood, to remind us of what we are looking at?

Also, does the Baron remember where he came across the ROP site? I remember putting those stats into a comment somwhere several months ago. I thought it was Brussels Journal, but I couldn't find the comment when I looked for it. I am just stretching to be able to associate myself with greatness, though...

Dymphna said...

mobile mineral--

Thanks for your breadth of view in being able to see mine. I understand your point, but I shrink from it...
...speaking of shrinks, I was telling mine today that in death, the face becomes private and that we instinctively move to cover the face of the dead person first...I was thinking of people in car accidents...somehow it seems as indecent to gaze on the face of the unwilling dead as it would be to gaze at their genitalia...

think of your own death, say by the side of the road, brought about by some drunk? Wouldn't you want your would-be rescuers to cover your face so that gawking on-lookers couldn't stare at you?

That thought came up today because I was moved by your ideas re the pictures of the dead and dying...it's given me a lot to think about.

When my daughter died the rescuers worked on her, attempting resusitation. When I annointed her body and wrapped it in linen after the autopsy, I left her face uncovered...but that was only because the casket would be closed. She would have been upset to let anyone see her with those bruises...though, of course, to her mother, she looked okay. But I knew my daughter...I could hear her saying, indignantly, "no way, Mom, are you putting me out there for inspection unless I get to do my make-up myself."

mts said...

I agree with the ban on gross photos. Especially if the photo comes without a story explaining it. I'm thinking of the famous Vietnam news clip of a South Vietnamese General executing a Viet Cong. See this background story, and see how pictures lie, too:

(same link)

A radio personality once made the observation that gory photos were mainly the domain of third world press - that class media didn't need to use them, that they could convey the story as richly without the gore. Plus, exposure eventually brings desensitization.

mobile mineral said...

Perhaps it is somehow similar to your post about forgiveness above. With time, and with prodding people can forgive things that they perhaps should not. (IMO) It takes little mental jumps to arrive at that point. Mentally blurring things to go from hatred to forgiveness.

(And in some cases that is certainly a valid process to go through. For example after WWII if some kind of forgiveness did not occur, the world would not have been able to move forward again very well.)

And I realize that I am making one of those little mental jumps when I look at the bloody boarders image. I get hypnotized watching the colors fade in and out and I quickly forget what I am looking at.

Of couse the purpose is not to instill hatred or shock or grief, just to show the extent of the situation, and it does that very well. Perhaps that is enough.

When someone very close to me once died, the coffin was closed at the funeral, and I found my thoughts wondering to their life and a dull sadness and grief.

On another occasion a friend died and there was an open coffin at the funeral. Seeing him there, dead, brought his death sharply into focus for me, for better or for worse. I couldn't think of much other than "he's dead."

His dead face there didn't let me make one of those little mental jumps.

I guess that is what I am looking for--something to keep me from forgetting that each of those little blips represents a death, and a grave and unknowable sadness, and also the exstance of someone else evil enough to bring that into the world.

mobile mineral said...

Bloody boarders. Oops. It does make some sense however when you consider that many of the deaths occur in countries where islam is a guest.

Jason Pappas said...

A wise decision! Cognitive content can be expressed is a manner where the full gravity of the situation is understood without the need to inflict trauma (as you rightfully put it) or sensationalism. Of course, visuals like graphs and maps make a good secondary aid to rational analysis. Visual attempts to bypass rational analysis worry me.