Monday 19 October 2009

Facebook Snuff?

What a wonderful age we live in. The web is everywhere and we have access to millions of videos on YouTube.

But I saw something today, posted on Facebook, that has completely repelled me to my core.

There are all sorts of videos taken from real life out there. A few months ago someone posted a disturbing clip of a man electrocuted on top of a train in India, apparently after a free ride on top, like the old image of hundreds of huddled passengers on top of Indian trains we're used to seeing in movies, but are now being stamped down on by the authorities. Why? Well, a crowd had gathered as the station workers tried to get him down but he wasn't having any of it, casually wandering around on top of the carriage waiting for the train to pull away. And then he leans on a power cable. It's over in a flash, literally and his smoking carcass slams down almost as casually, essentially a large piece of burned meat. Very, very dead. It's a shocking piece of footage and has purpose in showing the dangers of doing what that man did. But it finds distribution not solely in that but also in grim entertainment. But most of the chat I saw on message boards consisted of discussion of the cause of the accident and how foolish people can be. It's a dangerous pastime, don't do it.

What I saw today amounted to nothing more than snuff. Beadle does death; You've Been Killed!

A small scooter drives along a busy road in Taiwan, unaware of the huge articulated lorry looming behind. The lorry swerves and smashes into the scooter, drawing the driver under its wheels, crushing him once and then again as the rear wheels hit, dragging him. He explodes. Blood everywhere. His arm swings around on its own sinew as the truck stops.

And someone posted it on Facebook for a laugh.

Why post it on Facebook for reason other that that? There is no warning or thought on the terrible nature of the clip. No empathy. Just a smug joke in the comment line.

I hope this is not real. I hope it's one of the many fakes out there on the web. Because it's getting around. And I wonder if people watching, exclaiming, "Whoah! Wow! Gross! Eew! Hilarious!" realise this basic fact:

This is film of the end of someones life. Ended in an unbelievably undignified and excruciating way.

As a viewer, there is detachment. The footage is from a distance. We cannot see the faces of anyone involved. It's all too much like the video footage Harry Hill muggs it up over on Saturday nights as part of ITVs "entertainment" schedule. And so the fact that this is the death of a person, just as viewers themselves lose family members to accidents, disease or murder.

Death is a part of life. We need to be able to see it and accept it. But that doesn't make it funny when it happens in real life. I'm a horror fan. Some of my favourite films involve terrible ends for many characters. But, it's not real. I know when Ash loses an arm or when Kane has his final meal that this is part of how we look at death, through either humour or exaggeration of deeper fears. And I know what it's like to find a dead body in real life - utterly distanced occurrences and sensations. I'm not going to get into an analysis of real life death and movie death. I shouldn't have to. People should be able to see something like the footage described and realise that this is real. Someone died. Those pixels do not represent a staged action or stunt. That blood is real. And you're laughing at it. Yes, we should be able to look at death; it's that taboo we hide from, often by laughing at it. But to engage in the act of distributing said footage for cheap laughs is low. Fucking low. It's not dealing with it. It's the lowest form of Schadenfreude I can conceive of. Would the folks laughing at this clip make jokes about the men, women and children who died in the Omagh bombing or the Concorde disaster?

No matter the technology or the medium, people should still know the basic difference between what is, real and fiction, right and wrong.

Or, it's fake and I've ranted over nothing. Frankly, I'd rather have ranted over nothing.

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