TBD on Ning

I'm trying not to sound holier-than-thou in this discussion. Please bear with me.

I am appalled that TV stations are running endless loops of the actual death of Nodar Kumaritashvili, the twenty-one year old luge slider killed in Olympic practice when he crashed into a steel post at almost 90 mph. As soon as I heard the disclaimer that the footage would be graphic, I stopped watching.

I don't object to much when it comes to showing death to the masses.

I am not talking about an abstraction like a race car crash, a plane crash or an atomic bomb. They are unsettling, even terrifying, but they can make us think of how to avoid them while avoiding the ghoulish sight of a person dying in front of us. A jet may crash and burn, but what responsible film producer would show an enemy mob haul a pilot out of the wreckage and set fire to him? NASCAR does not release in-car footage of deadly crashes.

I also make an exception for the depiction of the corpses of victims of horrific crimes like the Jewish Holocaust of World War II. Those fellow humans were already dead, and the depiction of their mass burials in famous documentary footage stirred humanitarian action against genocide and hate that continues today. The same is true for battelfield corpses. The sight of them strips any ill-conceived glamour from war, while still retaining the notion that some wars are just.

I don't object to the fictional depiction of individual death, as in films. Even gory scenes "based on a true story", tasteless though they may be to many people, require that fans actively seek them by buying a ticket. They do not expect a remake of The Trip to Bountiful when they sit down for a horror flick. Not to mention that responsible mainstream theatres, unlike TV broadcasters, have people at the door who check IDs.

TV is much more accessible and passive than film. TV viewers include children. Must we now monitor every second of all TV - even sports events - to guard our children from the despicably cavalier attitude that TV broadcasters display toward the family and friends of victims? I sure hope not.

I'm not squeamish: I have bought tickets to both car races and bull-riding competitions. Death at either event is a possibility, but I wouldn't rush down to the rail at a rodeo with a 50x zoom camera when a rider was killed, nor would I watch replays of it. The risk of death is present in all sorts of sports. No one except a psychopath would wish that fate on any contestant. In fact, many sports - including racing and rodeo - have adopted measures for contestant safety. The measures are not foolproof; many sports are risky by nature.

The risk of death is one thing, the certainty of death is very different.

Modern civilizations consider gladiatorial combat immoral because the rules demand that at least one contestant must die. There are no scoreboards in dog pits or gladiator rings. So it is with graphic film of contestant deaths. We are not watching to see if they survive, we are watching because we know they are going to die.

Like a Bangkok pimp serving up children, media outlets keep giving us that film... over and over and over ... after all, more viewers means higher commercial rates.

Views: 4

Tags: death, morality, television


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Comment by Dallas on February 14, 2010 at 9:56am
If NBC said the film would not be run "by them", that can only mean one of four things:
1) They do not own the copyright, and thus cannot control the use of the footage.
2) They own the copyright, but they have already licensed the right to broadcast portions of the WO to other parties, whose use of the footage they cannot now control.
3) They own the copyright, but have not ruled out the future licensing of the footage to others
4) They own the copyright and will never show or license the showing of the footage again. In other words, the "by them" weasel phrase was just an unnecessary phrase.

Your last point is right, though. By showing it even one time, they made it available for digital capture all over the world, and they know it. They are now left to hound copyright scofflaws worldwide for years in a vain copyright enforcement attempt. I doubt they will pursue anyone but the most flagrant violators, e.g., YouTube and other well known video share sites. I can hear them now: "It would be cost-prohibitive for NBC to pursue all infringement cases." What a bunch of slimy pimps.
Comment by P.A. on February 14, 2010 at 6:18am
NBC announced last night that the footage of the accident would not be broadcast again by them but even though they would own the copy right others will probably continue to run it.



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