What do a startlet’s leaked photos, extremist beheadings and an empire’s demise tell us about the path of journalism?
I am a huge Jennifer Lawrence fan. I find her both beautiful and talented, and also vulnerable. Such irony has been bugging my mind the past week. Just as Emma Watson gives an empowering speech on how we males must contribute greatly to the destruction of sexual discrimination, the coveted Hunger Games actress finally speaks up about her leaked pictures and how it’s, to her, a sex crime. And it is. Though she can definitely pull of a sexy I-am-the-huntress reply on Vanity Fair, it’s clear what happened is nothing short of abuse.
She is a victim that cannot be saved. Though Facebook movements, charities, even protests will be made to stop the public from visually raping her, her and other women’s pictures will continue to be leaked as our planet will want more. “New, leaked Jennifer Lawrence nudes”, entices the reader. The sentence: “Jennifer Lawrence sues and succeeds in deleting all her pictures from the internet”, does not. Few would be the people, including myself, who would celebrate this. A communicator must switch off its morale to increase readership. I highly doubt any journalist would want her picture or his lover’s picture leaked to the world, yet many judge her for being irresponsible.
The same goes with ISIS. The extremist group feeds off panic and manipulation. And those that take part in watching the videos are not one bit more innocent than the extremists themselves. Let’s remember that most of the beheadings have been of future colleagues. As journalists, we should have stopped this.
But can we? Or can we not?
Many appeal to the fact that these events helped us inform ourselves of the crisis in the Middle East. Granted, such is true. But it’s also true that the very same media that sent these journalists there, motivated to uncover the truth, post stills of their fallen comrades as they wince and tremble at the sensation of a cold metal blade grazing their throats, moments before they die. Some are treated as heroes. So, is this a hero’s send-off? We uncover truths at the price of our own, turning them into disposables. It becomes a part of being a journalist.
TIME magazine in 1991, considered Kenneth Jarecke’s photo as too gruesome to show, to the point in which the news of the burning truck were relegated to a quick mention on the magazine. Yet now, even if the beheadings were ‘too gruesome to show’, major news channels provided ‘expert’ descriptions of the murders. The stills were so clear, many viewers already knew what to search and were directly led to the real videos.
Yes, our work reveals the truth about our world. We must never stop if we want to reveal what really happens in our everyday life. But it also reveals the truth about society, from the burning monk, the tank man and the Napalm children, all images that stand the test of time, to the ISIS videos and naked celebrity images which have become all too common. We will probably forget about them as they become yesterday’s news.
If this isn’t so, then let’s remember Boko Haram and the massive kidnapping of 270 girls, 234 of whom are still missing. This became news then it became old news. Few poeple know that efforts have been made to rescue them and still there’s no sign of a possible solution. Also, Boko Haram has increased its attacks on Kenya, so much so that close to 700 thousand people have fled nearby areas.
So returning to the beautiful, trampled Jennifer Lawrence, the worst of it is: we won’t do anything about it. Our very own society wants this to happen. And journalists know this. As an aspiring journalist myself, it’s both exciting and hurtful to see we’ve indeed reached the sixth stage in an empire’s life: its last, its demise. Where does this lead us?
You see, after we get mixed, civilizations go through six stages in general. The first would be exploration; our minds driven with intrigue and desire lead us to new boundaries, new frontiers and we must break out of our gestation as an infant group of individuals. Then comes conquest. As humans, we are not satisfied with discovery. We must possess. We must dominate. Afterwards, comes the dramatic stage: pilgrimage. Once we’ve ravaged everything, we must settle and try to bring forth some of the memories we once had, trying to instill them in a place that shouldn’t really know them. We sacrifice ourselves for the reward, sometimes trekking thousands of miles just to find a new home. But with this, comes invention, the creation of something new and unforeseen, so that it can captivate. We expand rapidly, having dominated the five stages, and we become a empire, a global power. Then we celebrate, for a little too long. We become decadent and proud, we stop caring about discovery, exploration, invention and we not nurture our minds, we simply lay them rest in our laurels.
People feed off blood, sex and money. And through it all, through all those stages, jounalists are responsible for transmitting reality. We are also subjected to what that same reality tells us to inform. We can fight against it and risk not having readership, or we can fall into the trend, and turn off our morale.
What is journalism anyway?
the occupation of reporting, writing, editing, photographing, or broadcasting news or of conducting any news organization as a business.
As a business. Hence it will carry on this way. If anything, it will get worse. It’s within our responsibility to prevent the trampling of human rights, from privacy to the right to a decent death, all the while trying to catch the attention of a blood-thirsty world.
This reminds me of a quote I Heard a couple of months ago:
Journalism will kill you, but it will keep you alive while you’re at it.
[Horace Greely (1811-1872), U.S. journalist]