Is Seeing Believing?

When news of the MH17 crash came to light journalists and media outlets were on the ground, commenting from Australia and sharing every detail they could find.

I remember the Friday night before the weekend papers were out reading one harrowing account from a journalist who was walking through the crash site in the Ukraine. Aeroplane parts, toys, books, clothes, luggage and bodies. Lots of bodies.

One description of a child stayed in mind for hours. It unnerved me so much I dreamt about it that night. The following morning I was still unsettled by an image that was now in my subconscious. It was an image put there by words, not pictures.

That Saturday I was horrified to see The Weekend Australian had put on the front page a photograph that had dead bodies in it. Not inside with a warning or with the feature pieces – but on the front page.

As Media Watch pointed out this week this decision, and that of other publications, to graphically show images of dead bodies caused much debate. While some of us are disgusted by it there are those who believe the only way we can truly show the inhumanity of what has happened is to show it in its full force.

Would family and friends of the victims agree?

After knowing the words of one well written piece was able to infiltrate my dreams and wake me sicken by what had happened I questioned whether we need pictures.

This week the news has continued to report on Israel’s attack on Gaza.

One morning I heard reports on the radio that an Israeli strike hit a UN school where women and children were sheltering, killing 15 people. That report alone did not need images I could already see it in my imagination. There they were cowering for protection, praying for the shelling to stop and then being hit. Left in rumble with stains of blood. I’ve seen enough to know what this looks like.

One argument for showing graphic images is that it is our responsibility in the media to “reflect what is reality”. I couldn’t agree more but once I again I ask does a barrage of graphic images do this, especially when we as a society are becoming so desensitised by it?

As Paul Barry pointed out. Regardless of our outrage or support mainstream media’s use of these images now is just trying to keep up with social media.

NB: I have not used any images in this article or links which contain them as a decision not to perpetuate the saturation we have experienced in recent weeks.

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