When private goes public

Despite the attempt to convey a bit of emotion, the reporter’s voice on TV sounds calm and unbroken, as if he were merely announcing a hike in fruit prices: «And now we shall show you exactly how the heinous crime was committed.» He goes on in the same tone of voice to describe the crime in Nea Smyrni: «It was from this floor that he pushed his wife onto the street.» Shortly earlier, a different, more melodramatic voice described a past crime: «This is how he chopped her up before throwing her into the garbage can.» So far there has been no re-enactment of the crime on television but this is usually left to the so-called investigative shows, not the news bulletins. To be sure, these quasi-theatrical shows or crime re-enactments are not really aimed at informing the viewing public. Their purpose, rather, is to arouse or even captivate the public by means of sensationalism. It’s pornography in the broader sense. Pornography of terror, of suffering, of violation of privacy. It is a fixation with death. Saying that TV people are the sole protagonists in this sick game would be only half the truth. All sorts of doctors, coroners, lawyers, police officers and other pundits have been starring alongside journalists. Mesmerized by the camera, many of them appear keen to lay out detailed accounts of killings and hair-raising descriptions of injuries, as if we really had to know whether the stabbings numbered seven or 12. Without fully realizing it, they too contribute to the abolition of the private sphere, already under strain from the abuse of mobile telephony. Suddenly, with the abolition of barriers and the overexposure of the self (also mirrored in the popularity of confessional programs), everything becomes part of a large public space tailored to the needs of greedy television. Nothing stays secret on the screen.