Compassion or voyeurism?

The promotion of photos of a drowned three year old raise issues about media and public voyeurism and questions of how much actual compassion is involved shoukld be asked.

Max Fisher at Vox asks Are we sharing that photo of the drowned Syrian child out of compassion or voyeurism?

Looking at the same photo that everyone is looking at this week, of a young Syrian refugee boy whose body had washed up on a Turkish beach, and reading about the boy’s brief and difficult life, I found myself torn between two conflicting reactions. On the one hand, I was saddened by the needless death of this young child, and outraged by the many factors that contributed to it: the Syrian war, European hostility to migration, and the world’s callous indifference to the ever-worsening refugee crisis. Those factors are important, so the photograph’s ability to call the world’s attention to them makes it a powerful journalistic tool.

But I am also uncomfortable with the way those images have been converted into just another piece of viral currency. There is a line between compassion and voyeurism. And as that photo was shared and retweeted over and over again, converted into listicles and social-friendly packages, it felt more and more like the latter.

It’s worth reading through the post. It asks some hard questions about the populist outcry over one death when thousands of deaths over years have been virtually ignored.

Fisher concludes:

If you actually want to help Syrian refugee children like the little boy in the viral photo, it’s not enough to care about this single dead child; you have to care about living refugee kids too, and in fact you also have to care about living refugee adults. If the image of the Syrian refugee boy made you feel something, that’s great, but it only matters for making an actual difference in the world if you can apply those feelings to living refugees as well — and, crucially, to yourself.

If we want Syrian children to stop dying in the Mediterranean and washing up on Turkish beaches, we have to start with examining ourselves, our sense of our own cultural identities, and why we feel it’s so important to exclude foreign refugees in order to protect those identities. That’s a really difficult thing to do.

But unless we do it, then our treatment of this photo will have been more about extracting a “big emotional experience” than about really caring.

Of those who have demanded ‘we must do something to help! I wonder how many have actually donated to any of the organisations doing what they can to help Syrian refugees?

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28 Comments

  1. kiwi guy

     /  4th September 2015

    Its basic human psychology – tell someone that 6 000 000 humans perished in death camps and they are like “Yeah that is awful…anywayz I got to hurry drop off the cat at the vet before picking the kids up at 4”.

    But if you personalise it – TELL A STORY – eg “The Diary Of Anne Frank” then you touch their hearts because it is about feelings instead of some abstract statistic you can’t really imagine.

    That’s what the media are doing here, its VERY obvious that the hairdos and their handlers behind the scenes have decided to make a concerted propaganda effort to manipulate public opinion into opening up the migrant flood gates even further.

    Reply
    • Mike C

       /  4th September 2015

      @KiwiGuy

      I agree … it was definitely propaganda.

      Trying to pull on people’s emotions and heart-strings to create a wave of public opinion to try and put pressure on the powers that be.

      Reply
      • kiwi guy

         /  4th September 2015

        I hope Key holds out, the “we will look at it next year” followed by “maybe sooner'” is a good move, lots of delay tactics so hopefully the media firestorm uses up all the available oxygen, burns out and the population gets topic fatigue.

        Reply
  2. kiwi guy

     /  4th September 2015

    What is really hypocritical about all those hairdos on the news with their big doe eyed sob act is they are all in over paid cushy jobs – a flood of migrants will not be a threat to THEIR jobs or posh neigbourhood.

    No, it will be your average whitey whose already struggling with paying the mortgage, if they are lucky enough to have a job, who will now face competition from a flood of migrants, whose neighbourhood will be occupied by mosques, halal practices, Sharia marriages and migrants demanding whitey accept their 3rd World “cultural vibrancy”.

    Reply
    • Yes similar stuff as with the Howard Penal League…. compassion, bring them into our lives….. and where do the compassion benefiters end up? In Wadestown, Fendalton, Remuera???? Nah in Wainuiomata, Arohanui, Magere Bridge and Henderson….

      So the policy makers make decisions based on “heart” and the balance of the population pay the price.

      i think our 750 a year refugee number is just fine.

      The solution to the Middle Easts problems is in the hands of the wealthy nations of the Middle East/Gulf and they should be called on to do more. Their don’t want to – freeze their bank accounts….

      Reply
      • kiwi guy

         /  4th September 2015

        Those are corrupt sclerotic regimes – they aren’t going anywhere but down sooner or later and their rulers will have retreated to their London super mansions

        Reply
  3. kiwi guy

     /  4th September 2015

    Here’s a nice little example of what “vibrant multiculturalism” results in:

    “Pictured: Diversity officer who banned whites from her ‘anti-racism’ event at British university wiping away fake tear in front of ‘no white men’ sign

    Reply
  4. traveller

     /  4th September 2015

    The photo of the wee boy and the story of his family convey the immediate tragedy on Europe’s borders – but most commentators are not addressing the complexity of the situation.

    A Telegraph story by Fraser Nelson talks of the “Great Migration’. He’s talking about a better educated, more worldly, digitally assisted person of means intent on moving to wealthier countries and more opportunities. I don’t mean to trivialise the plight of refugees genuinely fleeing a war torn country, but overall migration is rampant, not about to stop anytime soon and the conversation needs to be much broader than the current situation.

    Fraser says: “The Great Migration is a side-effect of perhaps the greatest success of our times: the collapse in global poverty. The Washington-based Center for Global Development recently set this out, in a study drawing on more than a thousand national censuses over five decades. When a poor country becomes richer, its emigration rate rises until it becomes as wealthy as Albania or Armenia are today. This process usually takes decades, and only afterwards does wealth subdue emigration. War is a catalyst. If conflict strikes, and the country isn’t quite as poor as it once was, more of those affected now have the means to cross the world. The digital age means they also have the information.”

    “The Great Migration is a 21st century problem, far bigger than Syria and bigger than the authorities in Brussels seem able to comprehend. To panic now, as Mrs Merkel is doing, will just bring more to panic about. The solutions of the last century – refugee camps, or the notion that you can stem the flow of migrants with foreign aid – need to be abandoned, and a new agenda needs to be forged. Europe, in short, needs to begin a new conversation.

    I recommend reading this article. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/11842760/Prepare-yourselves-The-Great-Migration-will-be-with-us-for-decades.html

    Reply
    • kiwi guy

       /  4th September 2015

      Its going in the right direction but still does not address the elephant in the room – the population bomb – billions more on an already overcrowded resource scarce planet.

      Reply
  5. Brown

     /  4th September 2015

    My 16 yo step daughter and I were talking about this on the way home from school as the radio trumpeted that we must do something. I pointed out that there was little gnashing of teeth when the Muslims tossed the Christian (including kids) overboard when a boat foundered and the horror at a Muslim taking family snaps of kids holding up severed heads soon passed as we became engrossed again in life changing stuff like the size of the Kardashian arse.

    As a westerner my view on my wife and kids is that I’d never abandon them to a smuggler. I’d never contemplate taking them to a fire fight with the Israeli’s, a stoning or to see people get hanged, burnt alive, tossed from a building, drowned in a cage, beheaded, blown up. In the Islamic world this does not attract attention as unusual or dodgy behaviour. These “refugees” include master bullshitters who care nothing for what we would see as normal decency.

    The idea that step daughter share her room, bathroom, lounge etc… with such people made her think the she’d rather be a prick and leave them to sort their shit out in their own back yard. Its been a hard fight but she’s learning that, as westerners with the benefit of the Christian tradition, we have standards based on that tradition and refugees need to meet them or piss off.

    Reply
  6. DaveG

     /  4th September 2015

    So far, the socialist, yet relatively wealthy MSM Journo’s have been putting pressure o nthe government to increase refugee numbers, and to do it now. Three names spring to mind, Pip Keene (EX Campbell Dead producer), Rachel Smalley, and the tainted one, Fisher.

    Firstly, lets consider the facts around COSTS, and where will this money come from.

    Its estimated each refugee costs Australia close to $600K. They average 7 years on welfare, cannot find work, most are insufficiently skilled, most cannot speak english, most DO NOT want to asssimilate. Now, even at $500K each, if Kiwis take on 1000, thats HALF A BILLION dollars…. enough to

    Finish the Chch earthquake recovery
    Put another few teachers in every school in NZ
    Increase the doctors and nurses in the health system.
    Look after OUR OWN elderly properly
    Put more POLICE on the beat.

    So NZ, will you bow down to the nutters and do gooders, or say no, or perhaps an alternative.

    Allow a middle ground. Personal Sponsorship of Refugees from all those so very keen on accepting refugees. These do gooder families can personally sponsor a refugee family to come live with them, they can PAY for the refugee families costs, they can share their home, their bathrooms, meals, and personal space with the refugee families. After all, they constantly claim, the refugees need assistance, and are nice good people, and wont cost much. The huge benefit, is a refugee family living with a nice kiwi family will learn to integrate into the community quickly, learning from their sponsor / host family. Good, then you wont mind them living with you.

    Oh, Pip Keene & Rachel Smalley, I’m looking at you, since you are both so keen on Refugees, and have the means and large homes to accomadate a few refugee families, and your claims it wont cost much, and that they are ALL such nice misunderstood people.

    Can all those so keen on the refugees please self nominate below.

    Reply
    • traveller

       /  4th September 2015

      Don’t hold your breath DaveG.
      n my experience it’s almost never the bleeding hearts who volunteer, much less roll their sleeves up and actually do anything. As for having the hoi-polloi bedding down on their repro/retro Danish sofa bed in their Grey Lynn mid century living rooms, you’re dreaming.

      Reply
      • DaveG

         /  4th September 2015

        Precisely Traveller. But the ones calling for the refugees need to put up, or shut up. A few nights ago, Pip Keene (ex producer of that pimping of the poor show that failed, Campbell Dead) was busy claiming Key to shy to take Refugees, i challenged that. SO ,she stated. Her Grandparents were both refugees and have done very well. Congrats i replied, obviously pre WELFARE days. No response after that.

        My main issue, is these people come from another culture, different values, different language, and no friends and Huge health issues. Its not on to bring them to a Foriegn country such as NZ, and dump them in Sth or West auckland. However, if someone like the Smalleys or the Keenes (since they were refugees) take on a family of Refugees and sponsor them in their own home, then I am certain a better outcome can be achieved.

        Obviously its not a monetry or security issue, as these socialist do gooders like Smalley, Fisher and Keene keep saying NZ shouold take more and more refugees. Lead by example I say!! Oh, as long as they are tied to look after them financially for 99 years!

        Reply
  7. Whether a PR stunt or not, I cannot bring myself to look at the pictures of those poor wee boys. I have two of my own. I saw one of the pics of the little guy face down on the beach ‘en passant’ and nearly started bawling.
    Be that as it may, you cannot let this flood of humanity in to civilization. The only outcome can be disaster.

    Reply
  8. traveller

     /  4th September 2015

    PeteG. You’re wondering about the likelihood of people like Fisher contributing.
    I have worked for a charity for many years. The volunteers are overwhelmingly middle class, middle aged and almost all European NZers, although more and more Chinese migrants are now volunteering. The volunteers are sure as hell not screaming or even whispering leftists. These good people without whom NZ could not function “examined ourselves and our cultural identity” (thanks Fisher) a long time ago. They found that working hard, obeying the rules, raising their kids to appreciate and contribute to society made things better for all Kiwis. These people are the engine of NZ life; it’s their efforts that have afforded us the life we live and they’ll be the ones out at the refugee camps teaching English and cultural norms and helping these people integrate and adjust. I’d be prepared to bet there won’t be a sign of the David Fishers of this world getting down and dirty. I say all Syrians with relatives in New Zealand prepared to sponsor refugees be allowed to come for assessment immediately. Apart from that we simply provide staff and resources if required to deal with the problem in Europe.

    Reply
    • jaspa

       /  4th September 2015

      Thanks, trav, As a long term volunteer worker myself I would have to agree with your assessment – minus the middle class bit for me, but I would have to stick my hand up to being middle-aged and European, as are most of the others where I work. I am even guilty of dragging my child along and teaching her that it has to be done; now that she is older she does one more day per week than I – her choice. Interesting that you should mention the race part of it though – it has made me think about it and realise a couple of things …

      Reply
  9. Missy

     /  4th September 2015

    I know I probably sound unsympathetic and cynical, but in my opinion the media are using this tragedy to manipulate my emotions and push their agenda. The use of the image of the child is deliberate manipulation from an agenda driven media, and this is not how we should be dealing with this crisis.

    The media have used increasingly graphic and voyeuristic images over the years for ratings, or to manipulate emotions, many people are probably very desensitised to it all, with the exception of children, and it seems the media are aware that dead children sell and still garner the emotional response.

    I feel for the father / husband, but also it needs to be looked at without the emotion. Apparently this man made his family travel on this boat despite his wife being afraid and not wanting to go, they had apparently already been turned down by Canada for not meeting the requirements of being a refugee, they had apparently already registered with UNHCR and were waiting for assessment, so my question is, if all of the above is correct, why take a risky trip when they were already safe in Turkey and in the system?

    Reply
    • Where did this info get published Missy? I wouldn’t mind reading the piece your referring to in terms of the fathers motivations..

      Reply
      • Missy

         /  4th September 2015

        I honestly cannot remember where I read it Dave, I read a lot of different publications from around the world, and blogs etc, I just remember seeing about the fact that his wife did not want to travel, and his sister (who lives in Canada) had said that she wrote to the Canadian Govt in support of their application stating the steps they had taken in Turkey to register with UNHCR. Sorry I can’t be more helpful on that.

        I will see if I can locate the article for you.

        Reply
      • Missy

         /  5th September 2015

        Dave1924, I should reiterate that I do not know if what I read this morning is correct, it was just something that I saw this morning that made me wonder about some of these refugees if it was correct.

        Reply
  10. Brown

     /  4th September 2015

    @ Missy.

    The wife and kids took the trip because dad is a Muslim and wives do what they are told when they are told. I feel anger that people treat their property like that. Anyway, there are plenty more wives out there and he can have as many as he wants. Its sensible to have a spare in case one goes flat The media need to put this father on the block and ask some hard questions about his religious and cultural traditions.

    Reply
    • Missy

       /  4th September 2015

      Exactly Brown!

      I read that apparently he now wants to go back to Kobane to bury his wife and children there, the place that he was supposedly fleeing as a refugee. It makes no sense at all, and does a lot to blow apart some of his credibility as a genuine refugee.

      Reply
      • Mike C

         /  4th September 2015

        @Missy

        Seems very strange to me, that a man would allow his wife and two children to board a boat, knowing that none of them could swim 😦

        Sounds like “The Perfect Murder”.

        Reply
        • Missy

           /  4th September 2015

          Yep, especially one that was already overcrowded, and when the wife had expressed fear of going as well, and then to want to return to the city he was supposedly fleeing for fear of his life. It doesn’t add up, and sadly it was his wife and children who paid the price.

          Reply
  11. Brown

     /  4th September 2015

    Hell just froze over – I almost agree with Mike C. What net? Monkeys on type writers randomly producing War & Peace?

    I don’t think he murdered them but is not distraught that this happened. He’s either a pig or a moron – or both.

    Reply
  12. Missy

     /  4th September 2015

    Andrew Little was asked on Twitter what Labour’s policy was to stop radical ideologies gaining a foothold in NZ like they have in Europe, here is his response, (sorry I don’t know how to do the screenshot). This is in the conversation thread on AL’s tweet regarding the bill they are going to try to introduce into parliament to increase the quota of refugees immediately.

    “In more than a hundred years of taking refugees we have avoided it”

    I gather that Labour’s policy on the security of our country is to just cross their fingers and hope, since their leader does not seem to have a policy, and is just saying it hasn’t happened yet. Foot & mouth hasn’t happened yet either, but we still have a Govt policy on how to deal with it.

    Reply
    • Missy

       /  4th September 2015

      Oh, wow! Andrew Little’s response to real concern regarding ISIS infiltrating refugee camps and coming to the west as refugees is to call it scaremongering. I have serious concerns at Andrew Little’s view of the world, he seems at best naive at worst ignorant, and perhaps stupid at the in-between points. This guy wants to be PM, yet he hardly seems concerned about NZ security.

      Reply

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