It is not journalism’s job to be safe
Okay, first, if I was Masi Oka, I’d be REALLY displeased with that image he’s got posted.
I also think he’s dead wrong. I don’t think any of us is “safe” from the text, sounds, and pictures that’re out there. I think anyone who thinks that media consumption can really be controlled anymore is delusional. We are at a point where a split second search can lay out before you atrocities ranging from the historic to the contemporary, from the imaginative to the mundane.
We are the Romans, cheering on the lions that are munching on Christians; we are the hoi polloi congregating in the town square for a spot of entertainment with some hangings or a drawing and quartering. We are not the first society to have made pornography of violence, but we have outdone any previous culture in the dissemination and diluting of it. Hell, we don’t even have to leave our comfy chairs to get it.
I think most of us have been desensitized to the ugly parts of our world to a degree that would be very uncomfortable to contemplate. Good thing we don’t, usually.
Sure, a “no holds barred” approach to media disclosure (like Cho’s posthumously-received media package) would be great for NBC’s ratings temporarily. Sure, the folks who study such things would have lots of new material to pore over and theorize about. Sure, the average joe would have some “Holy shit, did you see…?” material to gossip about and philosophize over around the water cooler.
But in the end, I really don’t see any “value” to a full disclosure policy. It’s like how most people slow down to rubberneck at accidents on the highway. Yeah, you might catch a glimpse of something. Something you won’t be able to un-see. I have known people who are EMTs and who have worked for the coroner’s office. I’ve heard choice stories. No, you really don’t want to see.
We are not going to ingest these images and, as a result, face the worst of ourselves and radically change. Sprays of bullets are not going to be the catalyst for the advent of utopia. There are people who will absorb those images and messages and think they’re the best of ourselves. Inspirational. Or a challenge.
We are not going to study these rantings and figure out how to prevent events like this from happening again. If we could I think we would have managed it already. Not like there’s any shortage of precedent to research. Add workplace shootings to the school shootings (and they’re the same thing, really) and you double your data.
One of the messages in We Need to Talk About Kevin that I respect and believe is true is that there ARE people out there who are just… broken. Irreparably. Some are born that way, some are made that way, but they are, and we can’t fix them. Of course, while it’s acceptable to believe that about animals, it’s not acceptable to believe it about humans. We euthanize the animals.
Fully disclosing these materials won’t do anything but provide further fodder to the warped imaginations of those already enraged and diseased. It won’t bring peace to the loved ones of the victims of those who decide to act on their rage. It won’t explain why these things keep happening. It will, however, continue to make the rest of us even more inured to and blasé about these horrors our world manufactures.