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Disaster “porn”…

I think the problem with the 24 hour newscycle and the overly interconnected instant-gratification world we live in, is the suffering of some becomes the entertainment of others. In particular, things like Katrina, Haiti, and now the Japanese Tsunami become a sort of “disaster porn”, where we secretly enjoy what we’re watching, even if it only in the form of enjoying the emotional roller coaster of empathy for them.

That is, while there may be altruistic reasons for wanting to rubber-neck, we’re also getting some frankly deranged pleasure out of it as well.  Often, unfortunately, I don’t even think the “empathy” applies – we enjoy strict entertainment of watching the disaster unfold. After all, as ugly as the reality is behind watching the waves roll over hundreds of homes, it also is an amazing and sadly entertaining spectacle – that is of course because it isn’t our homes, our lives, or our loved ones being rolled over.

It is a sort of societal sickness, one that I cannot say unfortunately that I am  entirely immune to. I think it’s also worsened by the fact with modern CGI in movies we’ve seen just about every horror and are now not only insensitive to the sympathy they should instill, and thus are ill equipped to separate real trauma from that created for our entertainment.

Sometimes though, there is a picture or something similar that actually brings it home. That makes you feel appropriately bad about your sort of vicarious plunder of others’ pain. A text or image that snaps you into the reality of the situation. This photo:

is just such an example.

It’s worth going to this ABC News article, where it comes from, and clicking on the picture to see the full sized image. The photographer, whoever he or she might be, deserves considerable credit.

In any case I hope it will help remind you, as it did for me, that there are real humans on the other side of this disaster, and this wasn’t “created” for any audience’s enjoyment.

UPDATE:

In retrospect undoubtedly I cribbed, albeit unintentionally, the title from David Sirota’s excellent, “Our Addiction to Disaster Porn“, which I’m fairly certain I read previously (though I think at the Huffington Post). In any case David’s focus is different than mine – his is on the vendors of the “porn” – the media. Mine is on what I feel is an equally important part – us the willing recipients.

While I certainly think the media bears a significant portion of guilt here, there is no doubt they are able to sell their wares because they have many willing buyers. Still his points hold as well.

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