Thursday, 23 March 2017

Life Through A Lens

I don't normally say much about current events on the blog. That's not to say I don't pay attention to the News. I do. I devour it, from as many different sources as I can. I never used to be hugely interested in politics until a few years ago and now I'll pay as much attention to that as I used to pay to the Entertainment section as a teenager.

I don't usually bring it up on the blog, because this just isn't that sort of place. I talk about it in real life, I don't need to talk about it here.

But walking Tara yesterday, I was playing things round in my head, and I realised that there was something that I wanted to say, and my blog is as good a place as any for that.

Yesterday at work we watched the awful events unfolding at Westminster on Sky News. First there was the Breaking News banner which flashed up on the screen announcing that gunshots had been heard outside the Parliament building. Then there was some more information about a stabbing. Then the news about the car being used to attack people on Westminster Bridger.

We continued with our work, of course, but there was discussion of the events and we kept an eye on what the latest news was saying, trying make sense of what was going on.

Gradually the picture of the events came together and while we still didn't truly know or understand what was going on, the media gave us a sense that we were there in the event.

On the one hand, I think this was a useful thing. When big events like this happen, it's very easy for fact and rumours to get confused. I think that having the media on the ground, reporting events as they happen, is probably a good thing. Having multiple media outlets covering the same event means that you can switch between the different sources of information and get a different perspective, which is useful, especially if you're somewhat able to filter out the bias.

On the other hand, I have to disagree with the way that Sky News was reporting on the attack.

I don't know exactly when the image of the person lying on the ground, face blurred but body clearly in an unnatural position, lying where they had landed where they were thrown by the car, but it proceeded to be shown again and again over the course of the afternoon.

At first that was the only picture of a victim which they shared. Then later there was some blurry footage of a blurry shape lying on the road with some equally blurry people rushing towards them. Then a photo of a man in a suit, seated on the ground at Westminster Bridge; his face was blurred out but his hands, outstretched to the people around him, were bloody.

There was also the footage from the helicopter circling over the bridge. Down below tiny paramedics could be seen working on equally tiny shapes, manoeuvring them onto little trolleys and wheeling them towards ambulances.

And I couldn't watch it. It was macabre. When did other people's pain and suffering turn into a spectator sport?

I hurt for the people who were involved in the trauma of the event who would later find themselves splashed across newspapers and social media. For the people who might be turning on the TV because they knew a friend or relative was in the area, finding themselves squinting at a half blurred photo of someone they might know. For the people who could potentially learn from someone's photo on TV that a loved one is seriously injured.

And I couldn't help but be torn about who to get annoyed with. Sky News for showing these photos, or the people who see an awful scene like this and decide to whip out the camera.

I think it's wonderful that modern technology allows us to record our lives the way we do. I enjoy going places, safe in the knowledge that with one swipe of my phone I can snap a photo for posterity. I'm even aware that the police are asking members of the public to pass on any recordings or photos of what happened to help them build up a broader picture of just what went on. A digital recording is a whole lot more reliable than a human memory. I get that.

But I like to think that most of us, when faced with a person injured or bleeding on the ground, would think twice about pulling out that phone camera and taking a photo.

Sadly, yesterday's news demonstrated that there are more than a few people who don't share that attitude.


  1. Replies
    1. Glad I'm not the only one who feels this way.

  2. They used to say it took a special sort of person to be a photojournalist; someone who not only could react instantly when tragedy and disaster unfolded right before their eyes, but reacted in a way that was wholly about 'getting the image for the story'. It's a special, almost sociopathic trait to tune out of the natural reaction to help or aid those suffering in front of you.

    Nowadays it seems like everyone is a photojournalist.

    1. I've looked at those photos from wars in the past or of children suffering during famines and wondered how hard it is to step back and just take a photo without getting involved. It's scary to think that the disassociation that would be needed to do that is becoming a normal response for some people.

  3. I hear your and totally agree. I don't have the tv on much anymore during the day (for me it's that I might accidentally hear Trump and I really do not want that), but even social media is wrought with it. I'm on Facebook a lot so when I follow CNN all of their breaking new pops up. But they are consumed with the mess of a government we've got going on right now so I didn't see the footage you saw. I don't understand the people who whip out their phones instead of helping or just honoring a person in the worst moment of their lives. For everything good iPhones have brought there is a dark side too.

    1. We usually have the news on in the background at work (but the sound is off, so it's usually fairly easy to ignore) but we don't have TV at home so my only news comes from the websites I choose to view it on.

      I love the fact that social media and the internet allow us to be so connected, to reassure people and 'check in' during horrific events like this, but it's also dehumanised us and the people around us a lot as well which is definitely one of the dark sides.

  4. No, too many people would rather take a picture than be of some help. It's become an issue in hospitals, too. I've heard stories (secondhand, but from hospital employees) about hospital employees who take pictures of patients and post the gruesome on social media. Thinking that's okay. (The instances I heard about were followed by said employees losing their jobs.)

    1. That's just awful. Thankfully those hospital employees learned just how wrong that is (though it shouldn't have to be a thing that people have to learn).


Let me know what you think. :-)