This is going to make me sound like a huge weirdo, but back in college, me and my roommates would have contests to see who could find the most graphic videos on the Internet. So, I am accustomed to seeing images that make the Boston Bombing look elementary. But, do you know the difference between what I was looking up and what people are posting on social media? The difference is I had to dig to the deepest parts of the Internet to find this content, and didn’t stumble across it when I was checking my newsfeed. But, should it be ethical to show pictures like the one from Boston? If it is, then who should be the gatekeepers to these images?
Should media outlets show restraint when it comes to posting graphic images? To be perfectly honest, I am torn on this question. I wrote in my reading reaction that this should be a definite yes. But, now I am second-guessing myself on it. Couldn’t media outlets crop the image so his leg isn’t in the frame? Absolutely. Would this image still be as powerful as it is even without the severed leg? Maybe. I believe people showed this image because how powerful it was and how it personified the city of Boston. I am going go out on a limb here, but if you ask someone if they know who “The Man in the Cowboy Hat” is; I believe there is a very good chance they say the man from this picture.
But should media outlets show extremely graphic images that don’t have such a powerful message? I remember talking about this exact photo to my friend, and we talked about how news outlets will show any image anymore. I’m pretty sure I was talking about the Huffington Post during this conversation, but I said that a news article simply puts “Warning: Graphic Images” before the jump, and they’ll pretty much show anything. Does this disclaimer make it okay to broadcast these images? Apparently it does.
But what about ordinary people sharing extremely graphic images and videos of events that aren’t a tragedy. For example, there is an extremely disturbing trend amongst young people where it’s cool to videotape violence and upload it to the Internet. So, instead of acting like a human being and calling the police, they will videotape something like a fistfight, yell “WorldStar” (worldstarhiphop.com extremely NSFW) and post it to Facebook for the whole world to see. An incident like this just occurred recently when Mississippi State quarterback, Dak Prescot, and a few other players were jumped at a concert. The assailants – and presumably defendants now – jumped the players, posted the video online, and then bragged about it on Twitter.
Videos like these are extremely viral when it comes to social media because it’s cool to watch violence towards strangers online. Because we don’t know the “SMALLER KID DESTROYS BULLY (NSFW)” or anyone else in the video, people won’t think twice about sharing it on Facebook.
So to wrap these questions up: I believe that sharing a powerful picture like the one from the Boston Bombings is ethically all right because of its message. But, graphic and violent content that breeds ignorance has no place on social media. And that is coming from a guy who once showed the Budd Dwyer* video at Christmas Eve dinner.
*Budd Dwyer link is a New York Times article and not the video.
Do you think powerful images like “The Man in the Cowboy Hat” are okay to post?
Do you have a problem with young people posting violence online?
Is a disclaimer all you need to post graphic images?