A controversy has arisen over the distribution of graphic images on Twitter from the recent shooting at a Texas Mall. People were outraged at the insensitivity of those who used their cell phones to capture and post pictures of the victims and for Twitter allowing the images to be posted.
My first reaction to these video voyeurs is one of disgust. How someone can stand there and take pictures without trying to help the victims or stop the violence is beyond me. But, having been a police officer for 20 years, it is an innate reaction for me and those who were and are serving officers. When bad things happen, cops run toward the problem while everyone else runs away. I could never live with myself if I did such a thing, let alone stand there and take pictures.
But there may be an unintended benefit to what I—rightfully or wrongfully—consider cowardice.
Perhaps displaying these graphic images is precisely what we need to force us to act and do something about the violence plaguing this country.
Instead of the same tired images of Police Chiefs or Sheriffs holding press conferences to explain what they are doing after the fact and the bravado of how they promise to “hunt down and capture” any of the escaped perpetrators,
Instead of the usual polar opposite politicians screaming for more laws and banning guns or extolling how they are praying for the victims yet standing firmly in support of the Second Amendment,
Instead of repeating the same pattern of breaking news, tallying the number of victims, delving into the troubled lives of the shooters, tearful images from the resulting funerals, and talking heads debating ad nauseum over the same issues,
Maybe these graphic images of what bullets do to the human body—the splattered blood, the horrific exit wounds, the shattered skulls, the splayed viscera, the severed limbs, the missing faces, and the bits and pieces of what was once a living, breathing human should be shown every single moment until we find a way to end this.
And let’s not stop there. Let’s capture the audio sounds of the dead and dying, the horrific screams of a parent standing over the bullet-ridden body of their child, the agony of ripped and torn flesh, the painful wailing of children, one moment enjoying a day at the mall, then their lives shattered when pierced by bullets bearing our name under the banner of the Second Amendment.
Let’s put all the horror witnessed almost daily by first responders out there so everyone can share the nightmares haunting them.
During the Vietnam War, a similar controversy arose over the display of the picture of a young girl, all her clothes burned off her body from a napalm bombing near her village, running down a street with Army of the Republic of Viet Nam (ARVN) servicemen walking behind her.
The picture was taken by Nick Ut, Associated Press in 1972.
There was significant criticism about the publication of that image. Yet, perhaps this most horrific example of the horrors of war helped the United States come to terms with the errors of judgment in thrusting us into that war.
As was the publication of the open casket image of Emmett Till. Perhaps if more of those images had been published we’d have experienced less horror.
In times of incidents like the Texas Mall shooting, I hold those who, while capable of helping yet choosing to be voyeuristic spectators, as despicable and disgraceful. But I think trying to stop the distribution of such graphic images is merely another way to guarantee these incidents will happen again. And again. And Again!
Put every single victim on display for everyone to see. The more horrific, the more effective. If we had not cared enough to protect them before they were shot, perhaps their death and the horrors of their suffering might save others from becoming victims in the future.
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