The odds of you checking out on camera via violence or accident are infinitesimal. You’re probably sixteen times more likely to get struck by lightning. Your last moments are hopefully to occur peacefully alongside family. And while that event isn’t going to end well for you, at least it’s what we’d consider natural.
I’m of the opinion that despite the exciting pages of history, the vast majority of humans have never seen or experienced brutal violence. Still, when there were no cops around and everybody carried a club, I’m sure we had our fair share of cave related deaths. Or vicious renaissance era coffee house brawls.
The difference between today’s world and say, a Vienna stabbing in 1734, is that everybody’s holding a camera. More than that, everybody’s holding a full-motion-video camera right in their pockets. Even the fixed-site big cameras are different now. It used to be the only time a security camera’s footage was shown is on the news. Now a security video makes its way to the Internets six minutes later.
Whereas we were once a race that traditionally never saw actual violent death with our own eyes, now every single person carries it at their fingertips. And please understand that I consider this light years from movie or video game violence. One is real, the other is not. It’s that simple.
A thought occurred to me a few days back while watching the video of the Tianjin blast in China. Put simply: “Is this wrong?” And then: “What is it doing to us?”
Everybody loves explosions. We’ve been enjoying fireworks for thousands of years. So like countless others, I got a real kick out of watching one of the biggest blasts you’re likely to ever see.
Here’s one of the better examples. Warning, big time profanity in it (even more than you’d usually read on this blog):
Cool, right? But if you really took a step back and thought about it, as these major blasts occurred, probably about fifty firefighters were dying, incinerated. While it’s neat for us to watch, it’s also rather horrifying, and deeply disturbing.
You can take it a step further too. Here’s an example of security footage that found its way online quickly because some guy took smartphone video of the camera’s monitor. It’s of a guy having the blast collapse the entire entranceway and wall in front of him. In other words, his last few seconds of life:
If we’re not careful, our inner-freak-human-self can degenerate to the part of our psyche that used to get a kick out of watching medieval public torture executions. It’s a special form of darkness.
The tale continues with yesterday’s murder of two reporters live on camera by a truly deranged individual. You had the unique ability to watch the killing from the perspective of both the victims and the killer. It doesn’t get any worse than this. Oh, but wait, except it does. For the Islamic State (neither Islamic nor a State) goons have posted some of the more vicious videos in human history, hundreds of them.
Tens-of-millions, perhaps hundreds-of-millions, of humans have watched these videos. I’m sure tens-of-millions worldwide have watched the Virginia murders from both perspectives in the last 24 hours.
I intentionally have never watched an Islamic State (neither Islamic nor a State) video. But I’ll admit it, Virginia I did, both perspectives. And I think it’s broken my brain, and a corner’s been turned.
“Is this wrong?” Yep. You bet.
“What is it doing to us?” Nothing good.
We’re supposed to evolve, right? Thanks to the Internets we now possess the ability to watch somebody die, right before our eyes, at the click of a button, just because we feel like. Or because we’re fascinated by it. Or because we’re just curious. Or because everybody else watched it. Or because maybe in our dark-inner-selves we enjoy it.
Or maybe you think it’s important that we watch, so we truly understand the darkness we’re facing? No, instead you should read any number of United Nations reports on what the Islamic State (neither Islamic nor a State) has done. It’s all there in black-and-white. You get a real good idea of just how truly wicked those dudes are by reading ten pages. We don’t need a snuff video to understand or appreciate evil.
No more. Not for me. I’m going to try and evolve. Certain things are wrong even if many have accepted them as commonplace. The culture seems to have decided that you can drink your coffee and watch somebody die. No thanks, I’m getting off this train.
Or put in another more practical way, the Islamic State (neither Islamic nor a State) goons and yesterday’s Virginia killer have one thing in common: They did the videos because they want you to watch.
It’s generally considered a bad idea to wake up in the morning, pour your coffee, and do what evil wants.
Like all human inventions, social media and the Internets are going to do a great deal of good and bad for us all. Choose the good. Discard the bad. Evolve. Do good. Live well. And hopefully others do the same.
It’ll never happen, but perhaps think of the positive change to humanity if some day, an evildoer posts their murder video online, and nobody watches.