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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Politicizing Pain in Paris

The attacks in Paris, France have reinforced what we already know about the media: pain, suffering, and blood get clicks, views, and sales.
Thankfully, there is an understanding regarding the necessity of coverage for such major events and an underlying obligation to be in-depth and thorough.
However, the media shows a lack of restraint in photographing or filming people in crisis. Pictures and video footage of people crying and covered in blood are in high demand, usually playing on a loop once obtained.
There is a lack of respect for the victims of such attacks, especially considering they have just had the worst day of their lives. The media does not allow the victims to grieve in private. While the necessity of conversations surrounding the attacks is undeniable, there is a way in which to do this that allows the victims a semblance of privacy and respect.
The media should remember two simple pieces of advice: wait for the blood and tears to dry, and don’t try to profit from pain.
“And now, over to this young woman who has just lost her boyfriend in the attacks.” Imagine watching the news and that sentence comes out of your television. Not only will the girlfriend have nothing to say because, you know, she’s mourning the very recent loss of her boyfriend in the terror attacks, but viewers will be more keen to feel compassion with the young woman; either turning off their television screen in utter disgust or turning up the volume because now, they’re interested.
There is something exploitative in the dehumanizing act of filming people just as they have lost someone they love. There are some who think these photos or video clips of people in misery speak for themselves. Of course they do. But should they?
What’s at stake here is journalistic integrity. All news sources want to be the first ones to break a new story. And if they aren’t the first, they will settle to be the one with the most views, the most clicks, or the one that sells the best. Even more important than the profession of journalism itself is the respect and privacy victims and their families actually receive.
I don’t mean to say that people should not show their feelings on camera, but rather, they should feel free to express themselves without a camera in their face.
Some may argue that excessive coverage of tragedy is only giving groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) exactly what they want: fame for all the wrong reasons. Alternatively, the message could be, and arguably should be, focused on the love and solidarity of entire nations facing the tragedy head-on and rising to the occasion. To make such an incident about hatred and pain is letting the bad guys win.
Before body counts were even tallied up, politicians were using the attacks in Paris to further their own political interests; there was no grace period.
“Too bad there were no concealed carry permits … anywhere in Europe … since 1818,” writes Ann Coulter on Twitter around 7:45 p.m., the same evening that news of the attack came across the Atlantic.
The attack has gone from massacre to megaphone in one tweet, and people like Ann Coulter did not hesitate to use the attack to promote their political schemes. The photographs of someone else’s pain does not serve to create sympathy for their situation, rather, their sorrow is seized and served as the cause of various individual politicians.
In addition to the promotion of gun control, immigration has come to the forefront as well. The attacks in Paris have put into question whether or not immigrants can be trusted, especially those coming in from Syria.
France, the country that experienced the attacks, declared that they will take in 30,000 Syrian refugees shortly after the devastating event. For a nation founded on immigration, to hear that some of the states in the U.S. have decided to “close their borders” to Syrian refugees sounds silly. The hypocrisy of such statements by senators across the country is preposterous and embarrassing. A country, founded on immigration, refusing to accept immigrants.
Going by the logic the U.S. is using to defend their views on gun control and immigration, some have been able to turn the tables to highlight the hypocrisy of such views. By aiming their efforts to prevent immigrants from coming into the U.S. solely based on the unfounded fear of potential harm, those against immigration reform replicate the logic of strict gun control: because someone might get killed by a gun (the same logic applied to immigrants), all guns should then be banned, thus all immigrants banned as well. Neither of these arguments are perfect, but comparing the two illustrate the absurdity of trying to promote political stances in the conversation around healing after an attack.
Inevitably, situations like these seem to invite the commodification of pain and suffering. Acts of terrorism are not exempt, either. Terrorism in its most mundane definition, is the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce a group, especially for political purposes. The politicians and media using violence in Paris for the purpose of generating momentum for their own political ideals goes hand in hand with this definition of terrorism.
This performance in the media, reflecting the ideals of terrorism: that is what is truly terrifying. The consumers have control over whether media coverage like this continues based on what they choose not to contribute to.
By removing ourselves as active audience members of this politicized coverage, removal of such coverage becomes easier.