When Osama Bin Laden was killed and the White House decided not to release photos of his body, many people in the world (and some in the United States) claimed they weren’t releasing the pictures due to a cover-up. How many of those same people would claim that the photos were fraudulent if they were released to the public? After all, the same thing happened with Barack Obama’s birth certificate; people will believe what they want, and in this age of digital manipulation, how can we know that any photographic evidence is accurate? More to the point, do we really want to see images of a dead person, no matter how evil a person he may be? Let’s assume Bin Laden’s corpse photos were made public, how would the news handle them? Would they show restraint? Or would they give in to blood lust and a ratings grab and exploit them for all they’re worth? Of course, these questions are rhetorical, because we see the answer in how the news networks are handling the death of Libya’s leader.
Nobody questions that Khadaffi (or Gadhafi or Gaddafi or Qaddafi or however it’s spelled) was a bad guy. He was Libya’s dictator since 1969 and murdered many of his own people over the decades. The United States even bombed the country in 1986, so the recent U.N action is nothing new. The fact that the Libyan people finally overthrew him (with U.N. support) is cause for celebration, and the news rightly should be talking about it at great length. The Middle East has always been tumultuous and a major concern for the West, so any time there is governmental upheaval, the whole world should be watching. Who knows what might take that dictator’s place?
The issue is that once video came to light showing what the Libyan rebels did with their former leader. There’s video of him shortly before his death, beaten and bloody. There are photos of his dead body after being “caught in crossfire.” There’s footage of his corpse being dragged through the streets of his hometown of Sirte. Okay, a case can be made that this is newsworthy and that the world needs to see what is happening. To give credit to the networks, usually the airing of these unsettling and gory images is accompanied by a disclaimer to turn away if it will bother you. The problem is that for the last few days, you can’t turn on CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC without seeing something disturbing. It makes one wonder if they’re not (ahem) bleeding this for all it’s worth. After all, what better to sensationalize?
Not to jump on the “inappropriate for children” bandwagon, because it’s unlikely many kids are watching the news. However, if a little one is scanning through the channels and comes across this, what are the effects? Is it any worse than a violent movie because it’s real? Perhaps adults who are desensitized to Hollywood violence find nothing wrong with seeing the real deal. Though should we be forced to have bloody cadavers onto us when we’re trying to know what’s happening in the world? It doesn’t matter how many teenagers we see slashed to death in a horror film or how many vaguely European bad guys are gunned down by Bruce Willis, to see a genuine live dead body on TV is gruesome and nauseating. We know he’s dead. We know what was done to his body. If we’ve seen it once, that’s enough. We’re not learning anything new by seeing it repeated every chance Anderson Cooper or Greta Van Susteren get.
Of course, their ratings could improve by showing dead bodies. Perhaps more people would be interested in the Conrad Murray trial if pictures of Michael Jackson’s autopsy were included (not that HLN needs any more reason to show the trial non-stop 24/7). Maybe Apple would sell more iPhone 4S’s if it had hot links to Steve Jobs’s open coffin.
Is it too late to want the return of the reign of print news?
copyright © 2011 FilmVerse
- A fate worse than death: the history of displaying criminals’ corpses (guardian.co.uk)
- Do We Need to See Gaddafi’s Body? (entertainment.time.com)
- New Account of Bin Laden Raid Raises Questions (socyberty.com)