Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Particularly Contemporary Dilemma

Nothing says "Internet Age" like the expression, "Pictures, or it didn't happen." That's because nowadays, it is highly improbably that anything of real significance will happen without being captured by a digital camera. Hence the retort to wild claims: show us the photographic evidence or we will not believe you.

And then, Osama Bin Laden was assassinated. With knee-jerk predictability, the hordes yelled, "Pix or it didn't happen!"

Thank heavens, the administration paused and thought better of it. Because, really, we don't need to see that. The pictures do, in fact, exist. I don't doubt that for a second.

And I can assure you that, if those pictures were released, sooner or later, you would see that. Here's how I know.

A little over a year ago, I attended a social-media "boot camp." Not much rigorous training went on, but we did have a captivating speaker who knew his way around social media the way I know my way around a bowl of ice cream. (I am a very skilled ice-cream eater.)

Anyway, the lecturer was whizzing along talking about how corporations have NO CONTROL over social media, that it is viral and that, once something is "out there" it is public domain and we cannot spin the message or, as the saying goes, "put it back in the box." Then he showed us the real, actual video of Saddam Hussein's execution. I was unprepared and shocked.

This is definitely not something I would have sought out.

The lecturer's point seemed to be that the video undermined the purported message of justice being carried out. (It looked like a snuff film, or what I would imagine a snuff film to look like.)

But what really struck me was that I was watching the taking of another human's life and I felt ... nothing. Really. I was horrified at the thought of watching something like this in a context of ... entertainment? It felt wrong. But I did not feel any empathy with the victim or with the witnesses or the executioner.

And that lack of empathy - with anyone involved - made me feel less human. Have I become so jaded by modern drama (like Inglourious Basterds or other Quentin Tarantino creations) that I can dissociate myself from this? Is that a good thing?

"Less human" may be the wrong expression. Maybe it is "too human" and "not godlike enough."

So, as I've listened to the calls for images of bin Laden's execution, I am pleased that the Obama administration has not released those images. We don't need them. They would put this event into the realm of entertainment, not history, where it belongs.

The world has no shortage of ugliness, of pain, or horror or of things that take something from our souls. Let's not clamour for more. On that note, I leave you with this verse:
"Finally, [fellow travelers on this sod] brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."   ~ Philippians 4:8


  1. Thanks Wynn Anne--EXACTLY! The quote from Philippians made me cry. It was just perfect in this context (and of course many others!)

  2. Very well put, and I totally agree!!


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