Thursday, September 25, 2008

We, the vultures

Something to consider from our friend Priguy:
Apparently, one of the ambulances that was on the scene of the South Carolina plane crash that burned Travis Barker and that DJ (crash scene shown above)had an on-board video camera that captured much of the scene as it happened. A South Carolina TV station had the video on its Web site for a day or so before removing it. A radio station here in Richmond played an excerpt of the audio from the video, which apparently is very graphic. In fact, this morning show radio host said, “Listen closely and you can actually hear Barker screaming. And the video shows his body on fire.” He tried to sound concerned, but I don’t buy it. I think that if he had any empathy at all, he’d never have played it in the first place. My question is: Why do so many people feel compelled to see or hear this sort of thing? Why do so many people eagerly anticipate the release of 911 tapes (or cockpit audio tapes) after a tragedy? It’s a fascinating dichotomy ... These are likely the same people who have candlelight vigils and bring in grief counselors at the slightest misfortune of absolute strangers, yet they want to have intimate access to horrifying sights and sounds – like actually listening to a man scream in agony as his body burns. Or listening to the heartbreaking last words of someone facing certain death. Don’t these people in the midst of these tragedies deserve a little bit of privacy? I just don’t get it.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Privacy? We don't need no stinking privacy! At least that's what seems to be the prevailing attitude of the American public -- until the situation applies to them or their family.

We have no shame. We want all the gory details. It starts with something as seemingly innocuous as watching "America's Funniest Home Videos": We love to see men hit in the cojones with various objects. Let's watch people fall off a roof now. Oh, sure -- they're not REALLY hurt. That excuses it.

But this kind of fascination with the pain of others fosters our ability to drive around the body of a man lying in the middle of a road after being hit by a car, as happened not long ago and was caught on video surveillance cameras. It allows us to ignore the body of a woman lying in hospital waiting room -- again, caught on video. It allows us to pull the drapes and shut the windows when we hear a neighbor sceam for help. Finally, it makes us NEED to hear that 911 tape of a murder in progress, or the last words of the pilot whose airliner is five feet from hitting the ground nose first.

Shows like TMZ feed the public frenzy for crap. We watch, tsk tsk the sad state of TV, then flip the channel to the next generation of reality shows. We watch Jerry Springer to see who'll get hit with chair. We watch Maury Povich to see who the father is. We watched OJ's low-speed chase to see if the ol' halfback could slash & cut his way through a hail of police bullets.

We don't particularly care for The Beatles, but we want to see nekkid pictures of Paul McCartney's ex-wife and read the details of his divorce proceedings.

People videotape their neighbor's houses burning, then sell the footage to the TV stations. So why be surprised that we've come to cellphone videos of burning human flesh being all the rage? We can't take the sight of American soldiers' coffins being shipped back from Iraq, but we can sure as hell stand the sight of a smoldering minor rock musician.

By and large, we have become a nation of profligate bystanders who care very little about anything except what affects our ability to drive as fast and as far as we want, cheaply and without sacrifice. We struggle to run our own democracy efficiently, but we think we have a god-given mandate to install democracy in other countries -- especially if those countries have oil. Our wars are fought not by a representative army of citizen soldiers but by contracted professionals whom the government has spread too thin and tasked with impossible goals. Do we care? Only if it's our kid who gets killed.

We go to church and tithe but can't find time to work in the soup kitchen or with youth -- we might have to miss the NFL game or "Survivor."

I'm not saying some of us don't care. But can we do anything about it? Probably not. The time of the majority of Americans sharing a common goal is long past.

September 25, 2008 at 10:39 AM  
Anonymous Steelerfan43 said...

Must Americans are gore seekers. The more the merrier. We are completely insensitive to the human struggle or demise. We want more blood, more violence, more screams, more, more, more. Until it is someone we know and then it is completely sick and wrong for people to sensationalize their pain. I truly am angry when I watch these videos of people being beat, robbed, killed, etc. and bystanders do nothing. They break out their camera phones to make sure they get it all on video in order to plaster it on You Tube or on the news. DISGUSTING. I was watching the news last night and they were reporting on a man being shot in the head and left for dead for two hours before someone decided to call the police. These cowards called his mother before the police to let her know what happened and to say that they did not want to get involved. Then why in the hell did you bother to call her to let her know that your son may still be living but we are a bunch of spineless trash who are not going to call police to try to get him help. Sometimes I wonder why I watch the news at all, it is just like watching Cops, or one of the other shows that broadcast dumb criminals and soccer moms gone bad.

September 25, 2008 at 11:19 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

Great comments, folks. There has been a clear devaluation of human life in this country. Sadly, I'm shocked when there is NOT a deadly shooting on the streets of Pittsburgh every day. We have become inured to the horror around us.

September 25, 2008 at 11:47 AM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

I thought a little bit more on this topic, and I might have answered my own question.

These people wallow in the pain and suffering of strangers, often stand by while someone is being hurt, get video of it, and then share it with the world. So in order to make themselves feel better about their bloodlust, they attend those candlelight vigils and engage in hand-holding and hand-wringing, wailing and shedding tears for someone they never met, just so that they can somehow come to terms with what must be tumultuous emotional confusion.

To me, it's the same as beating up a homeless man for the fun of it, and then volunteering in a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving.

And to the first anonymous poster, I have to say, "excellent commentary." Please get a screen name and contribute more. I actually thought it was Roger, one of the better posters on this blog. (I knew it wasn't you, ellipses, because it lacked the usual sardonic comments that usually appear at least once in your posts!)

September 25, 2008 at 12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm the first anonymous. Thanks but only I and my faithful Indian companion know my true identity. And I like it that way. But I might consider a screen name -- like "lone ranger"

September 25, 2008 at 3:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well -- "lone ranger" was not available. So I chose this one -- and not because it's all about ME!

September 25, 2008 at 3:22 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

You can take the man out of the colluseum, but you can't take the colluseum out of the man :-)

We are a voyeuristic species.


September 25, 2008 at 3:54 PM  
Blogger miss bess said...

Travis Barker's old MTV reality show with his now ex-wife was a real piece of work. Two seasons of watching the couple buy stuff for each other.

What I remember from the plot - She slept all day, shopped for extravagances, like a fancy handgun for her hubby, and then went back to bed, while he shopped, got a few more tats and surprised his wife (who was in bed) with a kitten.

Maybe the fact that I saw more than one episode means I'm in the same category as those who like to watch the messy televised true-to-life crashes. Thank God I don't have cable anymore...

September 25, 2008 at 11:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's not act as if this fascination with blood, death and gore is anything new or a sign of our declining values.

People have ALWAYS wanted to stick their fingers in the wounds to see if it's real.

Look at the Romans and their arenas, where gladiators fought, bled and sometimes died or political prisoners were fed to the hungry predator of the week. All these bloody conflicts were held to help the people of Rome forget that they didn't have anything to eat.

Fast forward to Europe's recent modern history, when executions were occasions for a family picnic, and people bought pieces of the hangman's rope as souveniers. Cheap entertainment for the masses and a morality lesson all in one.

It's the same thing going on today, only technology has given it a wider audience.

Instead of making the argument that our society is going down the shitter, so to speak, why don't we ask why we are compelled to see this?

September 26, 2008 at 11:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We're compelled to see it because we are human ... and because society has been "going down the shitter" since the first caveman clubbed a neighbor to death and the rest of the tribe watched, then made a cave painting about it so everyone could see it again and again and again.

September 26, 2008 at 1:47 PM  

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