It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that violence in the media is on the rise. Researchers have long been doing studies trying to link violent video games with an uptick in crime, especially since the advent of such games as Grand Theft Auto and Manhunt.
But that’s not the type of violence I’m talking about. I’m talking about the media accompanying news stories with graphic videos. One example is the story of Neda, an Iranian woman killed in the violence following last summer’s election. Someone captured on their cell phone the last bloody moments of her life. The video then went viral, even airing on CNN, albeit an edited version (you can find the unedited version online). In the video, you can see Neda lying on the ground, with several people administering first aid. Within a few seconds, she is shot again, and the unedited version shows blood streaming all over her body.
Last September, Chicago honors student Derrion Albert was also killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Caught walking between two feuding gangs, Albert was beaten to death while people stood and watched. It was recorded and, like Neda, made the news. Unlike the Neda video, it does not show any blood, but it does show the repeated hits and kicks that fatally injured Albert.
During a practice run at the Vancouver Olympics, a Georgian luger crashed and died, his death captured on film by NBC, which was rightfully criticized for airing the accident. It was aired during the opening ceremonies and mentioned throughout the rest of the Games.
Twitter has also been used, to a less-detailed but more-live action degree, to document such events as the Iranian protests and Captain Sully’s miracle landing on the Hudson (the first recorded picture of the plane on the water was posted on Twitter), but unless a user posts a link to a video or picture, is much less graphic.
I get that the videos do a better job of showing the horror than any newscaster could describe it. But is it really necessary? What happens when a 7-year-old is channel surfing or an elderly woman tunes into CNN and they see one of these videos? What if they were relatives of the victims? If one of my relatives was murdered, I would not want people seeing it, especially in an age where everything online can be archived and viewed by my children years in the future.
Technology is no doubt an asset to broadcasting, but I think it’s turning into a situation of “too much of a good thing.” Do we really need to see someone die to understand the seriousness of the story? No, I don’t think so. It’s better to leave some things to the imagination, and I think violence is one of those things.