The desensitization of society continues.
It was sad to see the reaction of people far and wide to the broadcast murder of American journalist James Foley last week.
I am not talking about the reaction to his death. It was a senseless act, which only proved to me that some groups consider human life nothing more than a bargaining chip.
I am talking about the reaction on social media by the millions of people who accessed the video, then commented on how disgusted they were.
Millions of people chose to watch that video.
Millions of people chose to share that video.
And millions of people critiqued it afterward; everything from saying it was gross, to questioning its authenticity. Most of the comments were of the “OMG” or “This made me sick” variety.
What did you expect?
It’s like sticking your finger in a socket and then complaining about the shock.
The video was as advertised: The beheading of an American journalist.
And the prospect of watching an actual murder captivated the social media world.
What is wrong with society?
Usually, it is the mainstream media (i.e. newspapers and television) that are chastised by the masses for sensationalizing the news.
If it bleeds, it leads.
Well, this one is on you, folks.
For every media outlet that showed or posted that video, there were thousands of non-media, everyday folks that did the same, before the original source was removed.
The vast majority of people who saw this video saw it on social media, likely via a link that was shared by one of their “friends”.
It went viral almost as quickly as it was posted by the Iraqi jihadist group that claimed responsibility for the murder.
Certainly there were mainstream media outlets that milked the video for all its worth. I even read one online article that quoted the victim’s parents asking the public not to watch the video, stating that isn’t the way he should be remembered.
At the end of the article, there was a link to the video.
As an editor of a community newspaper, I was relieved that this particular situation happened far away, to someone with no known ties to the Comox Valley. Because of the six degrees of separation between our community and the victim, I did not have to make a decision about airing such a disturbing video.
But today’s fascination with the macabre does sadden me.
I didn’t watch the video. I had no desire to. I read about the beheading. That was enough for me.
I’d like to believe I am of the majority, but the numbers that video produced would appear to contradict that hope.
There was a made-for-TV movie produced in the 1990s called Witness to the Execution, about a television network’s plans to show an execution live, in the hopes of boosting its ratings.
Fiction? Yes. For now. But can something like that be far off? I know one thing; when the time comes for such a television event, I won’t be watching.
Terry Farrell is the editor of the Comox Valley Record