Bits and Pieces

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Nick Berg Again

Another post relating to the Nick Berg video (hey, I missed the rush, but I'll be damned if I don't get at least a little traffic surge from Google. Nick Berg, Nick Berg and Nick freakin' Berg). I'm offering up my dignity to the altar of Google.

Anyway, it struck me while my colleagues were watching the video how the Internet has made it acceptable to watch this kind of stuff. Ten, fifteen years ago you wouldn't see millions of people desperately channel surfing to find a show that was airing a video of a real-life decapitation. OK, you'd get a good few disturbed teens filled with a morbid desire to watch snuff, but it wouldn't be anything like the phenomenon that swept the blogosphere.

There's something about the Internet that allows people to watch horrifying stuff at one remove. It depersonalises the world, takes away the emotion. I wonder how the people who spent this week searching hundreds of sites for a download would respond to an offer to actually sit in the room and watch as Nick had his head slowly sawn off, hear the screams and see the blood live in Technicolor.

I won't watch the video for the same reason that I didn't want to watch my grandmother die last year; the same reason I didn't want to watch my old cat Muffet die when she broke her back; the same reason that I wouldn't have wanted to see my old school friend Michael die when I was in college (seatbelts save lives, by the way). Death is horrible, and just because you watch it sitting in a comfortable chair behind a 17-inch monitor doesn't make it any less so.

It baffles me that some people are able to watch something like the Berg video without feeling sick; how they can see pictures from Abu-Ghraib and think 'well, that's not too bad'; how they can accept death so casually. A statement I hear a lot is 'well, death is just part of war'. Maybe, but it doesn't mean we should be so blase about it.
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