Theater of the Obscene
If you listened to Monday’s podcast than you heard about seeing graphic images that you didn’t ask for. There is a lot of that going around lately; not unsolicited nude photos though, now it’s tragedy porn. In case you haven’t turned on the news, Twitter, or Facebook, there is a humanitarian crisis happening in Syria creating thousands of refugees. Add to that a lack of empathy and compassion from neighboring countries, and nations around the world, in not taking in these refugees. As a result, people are dying—this includes children. If the crisis isn’t tragic enough, graphic images —which I will not share—are being thrown about the internet like trading cards with little or no warning of what they are. What they are is part of a growing trend of the theater of the obscene that is beginning to become a part of how news seems to be presented. How many newscasts start off with “Warning these images may shock you” or “This content may be offensive to some viewers”? Let’s be clear, these aren’t warnings. They are hoping that you will keep watching; they need the ratings and ratings thrive on things that “may be offensive.”.
At least the news warns you and you have the chance to turn off the television, change the channel, or stop the stream on your computer before these graphic images are in front of you. You don’t get that option on social media. As you scroll down your Facebook timeline or your Twitter feed, you are assaulted with these graphic images without warning. Yes, I said assaulted. I didn’t ask for or consent to seeing these images, so I think the term fits. “But Andrew,” you’ll argue “The Internet is a public space and if you don’t want to see it stay offline.” First of all, fuck you. Secondly, fuck you! I live on the Internet, much of my networking is done there and I hope that one day I’ll make the majority of my living there so staying off the Internet isn’t an option. Fortunately I’ve got TweetDeck and I was able to filter it out of Twitter. I wasn’t so lucky with Facebook. It was the first thing I saw when I opened it up to share a post from Can’t Talk Media onto my timeline.
The images are beyond shocking, beyond offensive, they are just shy of snuff films and if you are sharing them publicly on social media, fucking stop! Speaking for myself, it triggers some really horrible memories, the kind that keep me up at night because I’m afraid of them crawling into my nightmares. The kind that make me regret having alcohol in my fridge right now because I fear it won’t be there in the morning because I know getting drunk will give me a dreamless sleep. Speaking for others, I know these violent images trigger survivors, PTSD sufferers, parents that have lost children and people who just don’t have the ability to process that kind of tragedy. Whatever reason you have for sharing these images, stop. If you want to raise awareness, share news articles that have been edited by professionals who know how to frame a story to evoke sympathy and rage. You want to do something about it donate to some NGO charities like Save the Children or The Red Cross. Both of these will link you directly to their sites specifically to help in the Syrian Crisis. That is how you can help. That is how you can spread awareness. So stop posting pictures of dead children on social media. You aren’t helping anyone and you are hurting people with these unsolicited pictures that are assaulting them. You are affecting the mental well-being of anyone that can see your post, a post that has no warnings and has the potential to trigger intense distress in another human being. I’ve given you options, take them. Yeah block, yeah unfollow/unfriend, doing that doesn’t unsee what I saw, won’t stop the nightmares, and won’t stop me from drinking myself into oblivion to try and block those images from my mind.
If you need help coping with something you’ve encountered online, here are some links to mental health services in Canada and the United States which include Toll Free numbers to help lines.