I was waking up yesterday my smart phone indicated that it needed my attention What's up?
The iNYT app flashed "Breaking News": Raw Emotion at Hearing of Suspect in Charleston Slayings. To be sure, I had already seen the footage of close family members of the victims, in front of a judge in a courtroom, being allowed to explicitly forgive their loved ones' murderer, who simultaneously appeared “live” on a video screen, interspersed with wailing and crying, epitomizing their anguish and pain.
Breaking News? The night before I had switched off the TV before the “show” had ended. After all, what is news about tormented people, unknown to the viewers, expressing, one by one, their deep, and indeed raw, emotion? If I were their acquaintance, better even a friend, next to them, I could grieve with them, and hope to thus offer them some support and solace. From thousands of miles away, in front of a digital tube, I am just a TV voyeur. If so, what have our news broadcasters become? Peep show artists?
Anyway, after a dose of strong black coffee, I had the courage to analyze my prenocturnal revulsions. What does expression of “raw emotion”, far away, via a colored flat screen, achieve for the consuming viewers? How do I relate to invisible mourners, undoubtedly still in shock by the abhorrent murders, being allowed to forgive the perpetrator, in the form of a flickering digital image, of their immense sorrow and pain? For one, as nobody of my close family has ever been murdered, I cannot imagine the deep grief and emotional torments that grips them. Of course, I empathize with those in Charleston, but how does that make me a richer person or bring them more consolation?
Today’s news broadcasters obviously languish in this kind of exhibitionism: raw emotion on the screen is synonymous with “great TV”. At the same time they can manipulate the news: it seems as if “forgiving” is the dominant take away from it all. For sure, I would certainly hope that retaliation does not become the preferred reaction – a new civil war will serve none, apart from some drone pilots perhaps. Yet, the TV footage of positioning “forgiving”, through a peephole into “raw emotion”, as the central sentiment among the victims” relatives, was just manipulation of facts and emotions, as is so often the case: those that were not prepared to forgive, were not heard, and those that were heard, might change their mind after they exit from this shock. So it goes in the 21st century news media.
After the coffee, I was quite sure: this was definitely not “news”, let alone it would be breaking news.
But the app couldn’t know, or could it?
21st of June 2015