I was telling my friends and family about a call I went to recently. It involved a toddler hit by a car with possible life changing or life threatening injuries. My colleagues and I were busy – we had a child screaming with a head injury and the pain of numerous broken bones needing our urgent medical attention, not to mention a traumatised mother and older brother to consider. In the middle of all of this organised chaos I went to retrieve some equipment from my car and as I looked up I noticed that a number of bystanders were holding their phones out in front of them, focussed on the child, filming the incident.
I have to say that I feel considerable disgust at this new social propensity for members of the public to reach for their mobile phone to capture every detail of the suffering of another human being.
When it comes to the media, this is their bread and butter; even the police have no absolute right to stop them from filming. In their guidance it states they have ‘no legal power or moral responsibility to prevent or restrict what they record’. Some matters, arguably, are in the public interest; after all the media are responsible for capturing everyday situations and dramas to inform and record both for contemporaneous and future consumption and that is, perhaps, how it should be. For example, the amateur footage of the tsunami gave an almighty boost to the relief effort; court cases of police brutality have been won and lost on the basis of recorded material – often provided by the public.
However, it surprised me to discover that even if the mother of the child had asked the police to stop people filming him that guidance states ‘If someone distressed or bereaved asks the police to stop the media recording them, the request can be passed on to the media, but not enforced’ – Really? Should that be so?
Am I being a hypocrite? Undeniably. I too have been ‘guilty’ of watching this stuff on numerous occasions, as has anyone who watches the News at Ten. Perhaps though, there are degrees of hypocrisy. This however, is about the lack of ability in each of us to regulate the setting of our own moral barometer. Have we really become so desensitized to the suffering of others because of the graphic images we are regularly bombarded with in the media that we actually delight in the pain and suffering of a small child to the point where we welcome its presence because it gives us something to share and talk with the family when there’s nothing good on the telly?
What will these non-media people do with their booty?
A) Share it with their children over dinner
B) Commit it to DVD format
C) Send it in to Harry Hill’s TV Burp because one of the paramedics rather hysterically tripped up on some equipment?
A big red helicopter landing on an urban lawn the size of a postage stamp is interesting material, and you can film me doing my job should you wish – I’m doing nothing wrong. Film the blue lights on the brightly coloured ambulance if that’s what you like; but please draw the line at filming a little child lying in the road clearly terrified and suffering during what could be his last moments of life – because next time it could be your child.