Gratuitous imagery

The pain of the residents of Beslan, in southern Russia, who lost friends and relatives in last week’s school massacre, is deep and self-evident. The faces of the children who survived, of the parents who lost their children, transfix us. But when a private television channel, during its main news bulletin, airs half an hour of such scenes, unaccompanied by any reports or commentary, this is not a show of respect to the dead but disrespect for the task of disseminating information. Does watching the pain of others make us better people, better citizens? Does the extended exposure to naked horror and utter grief make us more sensitive and compassionate? At the risk of being seen as harsh, I do not believe so. Indeed, this televised horror only serves to make us more frightened, more terrorized, and more likely to put on our blinkers precisely because we lack essential knowledge, because understanding the causes of such a dreadful event requires effort. I am not suggesting that the brutal images should be replaced by cold statistics or censored altogether. On the contrary, the pictures of the Beslan school massacre should never be erased, but should remain as a reminder of modern barbarism, of unfair sacrifice. But the reporter who talks of «children» and «dead bodies» rather than «little souls» and «tiny bodies» is not any the less sensitive. Neither is the one who lowers his camera before a cry of anguish instead of zooming in…

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