Do death broadcasts go too far?

Vanessa Barnhart

As a society we are losing what it is that makes us good. Not everyone âÄî and possibly not to the extreme the statement implies âÄî but we are becoming a people okay with being told what is acceptable in our lives. Internet and media organizations compete for our attention in order to sell ad space at a higher rate. Several days ago, an Olympic hopeful died in a tragic luge accident. The footage of this accident was broadcast on networks like NBC and various internet venues. Is footage of a man dying in a horrific accident news? How does the broadcast of this manâÄôs final mistake help to dignify him in his death? A freelance writer responded to the airing of this footage, saying, âÄúI hope that young manâÄôs family and friends âĦ survive the trauma that you chose to expose them to.âÄù Journalists and news executives face these tough decisions often, and usually, if aired, a warning is displayed before videos of this nature. But not one of the networks has, at this time, stated why they felt it was helpful or necessary to show the video. The speculation is that some may have aired it because âÄúeveryone else was doing itâÄù or because Nodar Kumaritashvili was from Georgia and not the United States. These are not the answers we should expect from our âÄúelite media.âÄù Of course, this clearly is not the first time we have had to question the ethics of airing media coverage of tragic events. On Sept. 11, 2001, for example, various news conglomerates received images of people jumping to their deaths, before the buildings fell. Many chose not to air these videos, but many attached a warning and showed it, for the sake of news. It is not just the news media that have lost respect for the dead. A Google search of âÄúfaces of deathâÄù yields over 10 million results. There are not just pictures, but gruesome, horrific images that show victims of murder or terrible accidents, many times taken from police evidence or a passerâÄôs by camera phone. Web masters at documentingreality.com do have some rules: no pornography, no racism, no animal cruelty or any images involving naked children. The restrictions appear in that order, and clothed children are not mentioned. The site is paid for via donations by the people who frequent the site. Each image has its own page and a place to post comments. One viewer said, âÄú[Expletive]!!! Thank You!âÄù in response to an image titled âÄúCop cut in half and still alive after being hit by a truck.âÄù Documentingreality.com and NBC are completely different venues and should not be confused or compared too lightly. The issue, however, remains the same, if not more profound on the Internet. The worst part of this lack of respect is not necessarily for the victims but for their families. The Internet has this funny way of being somehow connected to the right of free speech. We as Americans believe in our rights and freedom of speech is a big one. ItâÄôs not that people shouldnâÄôt be allowed to put up Web sites that depict acts of bestiality, in which the human counterpart died two days later from internal bleeding, itâÄôs that potential viewers should have more respect for human life and for the people he left behind. There is a mother out there that walks with shame because not only does she now know how her son died, but so does everyone else. The Internet disconnects us from the people we see and hear. The luger who died was not friend or family to me or anyone I know. His death is sad but does not immediately affect my life. Yet I, like millions of others, watched him die. The Internet is a tool, not a human right. It is actually more like a privilege and a guise. To date, only 25.6 percent of the worldâÄôs population uses the Internet. The Internet creates the appearance of connectedness through a constant flow of information. However, we are actually losing our connection to each other with constant desensitization. Sensitivity is what makes us good, and we are losing it. Vanessa Barnhart University undergraduate student