Saturday, September 5, 2015

Banning Aylan Kurdi's Pictures

When I first saw the video of the Turkish coastguard finding Aylan's body, something drew my attention: He took pictures of him first.

I cringed. I thought: There is a dead toddler in front of you and you are taking pictures of him?
But then I thought, Yes! This is exactly what the guard should do. He should keep a record, he should document that this atrocity has occurred.

We don't honor the memory of the dead if we conceal their death. If he had not taken those pictures, or if he was not filmed by a different camera as he held the small body and went up the beach, it would have been one more story then. A story of those horrifying stories that are so repeated in times of conflict that they stop making any impact on anyone.

Back when I was in Media Institute we had lengthy discussions about publishing "Graphic Content".
I remember an  argument of one of my Palestinian colleagues who said that the repeated publishing of such images causes "Compassion Fatigue" and by that we mean that people gradually lose compassion as they are repeatedly exposed to this kind of content.

The picture of the Vietnamese girl who was running naked after being bombarded with Napalm is always used as the "good example" of graphic content, because the audience could have deeper sympathy towards her given that she is still alive and there is something that could be done to save her, while in the pictures of dead people the audience only feels impotent because there is nothing that could be done to the "subject'' in the picture.

Back then, I embraced this argument and did not go back to posting bloody pictures (One exception: The four Palestinian boys who were killed in an airstrike as they played football on the the beach of Gaza. That was outrageous, I could not ignore it). And now this: the picture of a dead toddler, dead and with his face in the sand and his shoes towards the camera.

This is a graphic picture, Yes, but for a totally different reason. No torn clothes, no faces covered with debris dirt and no blood, he is calmly dead. So peaceful.
This picture throws all of its pain on the viewers given that the subject, the dead toddler, is done suffering, he is just floating like feather, washed ashore for his body to be concealed under the ground once and for all.

I tried to check if the picture was officially banned on Facebook but I found no evidence, yet I have been seeing it blurred or pixelated in different news websites.

More on pictures that changed the world here.