The brand spanking new violent viral video came out on Monday night for America’s viewing pleasure. It shows a high school student getting the fuck beaten out of her by a police officer. I accidentally pressed play while trying to click the link to the story on think progress‘s FB post, and saw the first few seconds, before my panicked clicking of the pause button worked and the video came to a standstill screenshot. I choose not to watch these type of videos, because well, I just can’t. I can’t watch the video of this girl, the video of the Eric Garner’s murder, Freddie Gray’s arrest. the police brutality to the children at the pool party in TX, the video of the child, Tamir Rice, who was shot by police for having a toy gun, the Virginia news crew, Alison Parker and Adam Ward, etc. etc, and on and on…
Anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t have a strong stomach for violence and violent images. I’m a drag to watch horror movies with, I’ll end up passed out on the floor. I also don’t have the stomach for such viral videos, ones depicting real life violence, real life murder, real life fucking death. And through all of the constant talk and shares of these viral videos, I wonder if the true injustice is being to lose its power. Are we entertained? Are we still outraged? Are they watched with the same heart and compassion that we watch “Celebrity Reads Mean Tweets”? Are we being desensitized by real life? Is it wrong of me to think that we are?
A few years ago an old my roommate showed me a video of R. Budd Dwyer, a PA State Treasurer who killed himself on live TV. It really fucked me up. The same with JFK’s assassination. The people who saw these broadcasts live were affected and are probably still affected. These gruesome images are probably stored in the same part of their brain that nightmares are created. At least they are for me. But what about 2015? We’re used to close-up shots. We’re used to audio, to screams, to pleas. We’re used to seeing men beaten until they can’t walk, until they’re lying dead. We’re used to watching all of this, after we watch the first five seconds of that ad before we can click “Skip Advertisement”…
I think that humans as a species have always had a bloody thirsty taste for violence. (re: The Bible,) I don’t have a problem with violent video games, movies, or music, but I do have an issue with real life violence. So this is what I’m pondering- where is the line between real life violence and entertainment? Is there even a line anymore? The more these videos are surfacing the less their value and popularity. Is it wrong that I link these moments captured on tape akin to Gladiators fighting to their death, people watching and cheering on? (Or in the Walking Dead when the Governor has the Walkers chained up and townspeople fight them, and the crowd cheers on?) Is this the same type of feeling we get watching a stranger, a person who is disassociated from ourselves, as the victim of brutal, and often lethal, violence?
My generation watched the second plane crash into the second twin tower. We watched from our TVs the people escaping from the blaze, jumping from the buildings to their death. We watched and were (at least I was) profoundly influenced by this violence, happening in real time. I remember riding my bike to meet up with my 7th grade girlfriends after school and not having words to describe our feelings about what we saw. Was this the start of it all- the true start of our desensitization? Should we stopping blaming mass shootings on video games so much, and perhaps start examining what we are actually watching, what real life violence we choose to stream on our screens? And then how are we able to process this? Are we accepting it as reality or just as another video to watch between thumbing down Facebook statuses, on to like the next cute dog picture?
Then we are brought to the threat of censorship. My short answer is that these videos absolutely shouldn’t be censored. If Eric Gardner’s death wasn’t caught on camera, would the American people had the ammunition to question what happened and exposed an injustice that would have been covered up? These videos are becoming an integral part for social justice and intensifying awareness to the American people of how fucked up things are. These videos need to be processed as what they are- real life deathly oppression and violence, not just viral.
Here’s a video of a bunch of cute dogs and cute babies if you need a cute dog breather.