Thursday, September 03, 2015

When sharing isn't caring

Social media has been in something of a schism over the last 24 hours, as a result of the news media's decision to publicise the ongoing refugee crisis in the Mediterranean by printing a picture of a dead toddler washed up on a beach.

There are many who, for no doubt what they consider to be the "right" reasons, have taken to sharing this image among their social networks - either by re-tweeting or sharing the picture itself or images of the newspaper front pages on which it features. It's their decision, after all it is their responsibility to decide what they share or don't on their own social media feeds.

So let me tell you why anyone who shares it into mine is going to find themselves swiftly un-followed.

The primary argument for doing so appears to be that it "raises awareness" of the true extent of the humanitarian crisis happening in the area, caused by ongoing civil wars and unrest in parts of Africa and the Middle East.

What I'm not quite sure of is whose awareness it is trying to raise. Those with access to Twitter and Facebook also have a world of electronic news media at their fingertips, in addition to television and radio news as well as the printed press. I find it highly unlikely to the point of flabbergasting that any of them are not already aware of the horrible situation which faces these people (I won't call them refugees from here on in, they deserve better than that). It has been the main focus of the media for the last couple of weeks at least, usually focused on the humanitarian cost in terms of lost lives.

In short, if you didn't know this was already happening, you must have been living in a cave, with your eyes closed and your fingers in your ears going "lalalalala".

So no, it's not "raising awareness" as the overwhelming majority of people you are sharing it with are already heart-breakingly aware thank you.

Neither is it helping the plight of the people suffering. Treating their corpses like some sort of merchantable commodity in order to sell newspapers, or attract television news viewers to your channel is an act every bit as inhuman as packing people into overcrowded, unsafe vessels in the first place. It gives these people no dignity, no respect, none of the things they are desperately fleeing in search of. It is simply picking over their corpses like vultures. If you choose to be complicit in that then fair enough, but at least have the decency not to try to drag me down into the cesspit with you.

Let's just posit an alternative reality shall we? Imagine if on 8 July 2005, the British press and news media had been full of lingering shots of the bodies of those killed in the attacks on London's transport network. Not photos of their happy, smiling faces provided by loved ones, but actual shots of their corpses, not covered by sheets on trolleys but lifeless in the streets of the capital. How would the public have reacted to that?

I'd wager they'd have been outraged. They would have regarded it as callous, insensitive acts of barbarism. After all, these people were someone's spouses, siblings, children, parents. Don't they deserve better than to turn on the television or open a newspaper and see the corpse of a loved one who lost their life in an unnecessary act of inhumanity?

So why is it different when it's a small child that nobody in the UK knows or is related to?

If you really, truly want to help reduce the human cost of this situation you're not going to do it by hitting a button and sharing an image. Lobby your MP to change the UK's attitude both to leaving countries unstable after half-arsed military interventions and to how it deals with the humanitarian crisis it leaves behind afterwards.

Give to one of the numerous relief organisations trying to put a sticking plaster over the top of this gaping wound in our humanity because governments are too scared of public opinion to dress it properly. It doesn't need to be financial. Donate food, clothing, anything that can be sold to raise funds rather than sat gathering dust in your spare room. Give your time to help these organisations who are not just "raising awareness" but actually doing something on the ground to help the most helpless.

If you've read all that and still think it's fine to go around using a dead toddler's image as a mark of your humanity go ahead, it's your life. But don't surprised if I and those like me choose to treat you with the same respect you treated that dead Syrian boy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nail on head.

I've blocked and unfollowed many in the last week.