Why was the image on the left so objectionable to our readers, but not the one on the right?
On Thursday, I posted extensive raw video from a tragic fire in Moscow that occurred on October 2, 2007. It was under the headline, "Warning: Videos titled 'Fire with Chaos in Moscow' are quite graphic". The two clips were shot by someone riding with one of the first group of what appear to be firefighters as they arrive on the scene of a burning office building. Bodies are already on the ground and many others are jumping to flee a fire on the fourth floor of the five story building. The fire left nine people (described as students) dead and almost 50 injured.
So far I've received 23 comments. Each describes the same thoughts I had while viewing this very difficult video. These include how lucky we are to have the level of fire protection we do in the U.S. and that this video should be required viewing for any political leader who thinks it is okay to gut fire protection standards (including sprinklers) and funding for fire departments. Others commented on the bravery and ingenuity of the bystanders who worked so hard to save the lives of others. Essentially, readers got out of this what I hoped they would.
But I am surprised by what is missing from the comments. This video showed some people dying. Others as they were critically injured. We are not talking about a video shot at a vantage point some distance from the scene. This is up close and personal. It's quite graphic. There is no electronic masking of the faces or sheets over bodies.
Despite the raw and graphic nature of the clips no one has complained. No STATter911.com readers blasted me for posting the video. No one criticized the photographer for shooting it.
There are some very good arguments for not showing this video. They all raced through my mind as I debated whether to hit the publish button. After posting it, I prepared for the nastygrams. They never arrived.
Contrast this reaction to the outrage directed at a videographer from Connecticut and at me after I posted his video of a fatal crash and car fire on I-95 last December. In that video there's no victim, no body, no one in their final moments on this earth, no blood and no gore. It was just a burning car with firefighters and police doing their jobs at the scene.
If you are unfamiliar with the story, please take a moment to watch the video and review some of the comments. You will find that many people believe the man who shot the burning car is the lowest of the low. Others had a similar opinion of me for posting it and defending the photographer. There are close to 100 comments. The large majority of them extremely negative because someone dared to shoot a burning car where a woman died. The common theme is that we have no right to intrude on someone's final moments by taking pictures of a vehicle in flames. There are also another 50 or 60 comments from me where I reply and challenge each of the critics.
So how does a video with no graphic content generate such outrage, while no one seems to care about a video with close-ups of people taking their dying breaths?
If you read my replies to the comments about the car fire video you'll find the answers. They explain why I really shouldn't be surprised about the lack of passion over the Moscow video.
One of the most significant reasons is this. There is an authority figure in the form of a Connecticut State Trooper in the car fire video. Without warning, he confronts the freelance news photographer, orders him to shut off his camera and leave the scene. The trooper is angry and questions the ethics of the videographer. The cameraman didn't break any laws. He was standing with the general public at a respectable distance, out of the way of first responders. People naturally side with law enforcement, whether the officer is right or wrong. It's human.
But there is something bigger than law enforcement at play here. It's hatred of the press.
Read the comments closely and you'll find the real agenda. People who stand up for our country and its Constitution are willing to gut the First Amendment. Anything goes. Just stop those awful press people from shooting pictures of victims.
Some readers think cameras should be banned from scenes where there is even the potential for victims. Others want police officers and firefighters to be the gatekeepers. They would give first responders the power to decide when and if it is okay to take pictures.
As for me, I am standing firmly by the idea that the founders of our nation didn't want the decision of what can and can't be published left in the hands of armed and uniformed agents of our government.
There may be another factor at work here. The office building fire is in a foreign land and doesn't involve Americans. It's possible that plays into this. I've seen it happen in TV newsrooms where management would never show an uncovered body from a local disaster, but would frequently broadcast bodies from catastrophes overseas.
But I think the foreign factor is minor compared to a law officer putting a member of the press in his place. Without that confrontation no one is talking about the rights of victims or what a ghoul the photographer is.
I don't just base my theories on the Moscow video. Since the December incident in Connecticut I have posted many pictures and videos showing active scenes where people have died. There have been no complaints. They include the picture below that I posted exactly one week after the I-95 story. It doesn't show a burning car that a woman had been removed from before the image was shot. It shows a burning house with six people still inside. All died. It wasn't shot by a member of the press. It was shot by a firefighter. And guess what? There was no outrage.
Also on STATter911 …
- What gives? No outrage over ghoulish photographers shooting bodies. Has something changed in year since Connecticut trooper blasted cameraman? – December 18, 2011
- Downtown Vincennes, Indiana fire revisited. New video gives better view of fire’s progression & may cast doubt on some of the keyboard sizeups. – December 21, 2011
- Must see video: Moscow plane crash on highway caught on dash-cam. Car hit by pieces of jet. – December 31, 2012
- Must see videos: Collapse of large apartment building in Astrakhan, Russia. At least 8 dead after natural gas explosion. – February 28, 2012
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