John Doyle: The dangerous allure of Tragedy porn on TV

Even since Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas and bombarded Houston, all-news TV was supplying nonstop natural-disaster coverage. It is seductive, for both the viewer and the stations. On CNN and other outlets, we saw reporters and camera crews floating about on ships to independently rescue the elderly, the ill and the only stranded.

It could be mesmerizing to watch — all that gigantic destruction, the fearful people and the heroism of the couple. For all the havoc, an uplifting story emerges. Human nature, particularly the urge to protect and care, triumphs over the ridiculous wrecking impulse of nature {}.

But when language is beggared from the graphics, television news fails.

There’s a failure to get past the pictures and report on why states and cities in the U.S. appear unprepared. There’s reluctance to talk about why cities look anchored around highways and freeways which will inevitably flood. There’s absolutely not any inclination to discuss why so many citizens rely on automobiles, which couldnot function in flooding conditions. The causes of flooding are insignificant when there is gripping footage of the older, waist-high in water, hoping desperately for rescue. Climate change might have mentioned but only temporarily because “hey, we have a story about a wonderful guy who hauled out his boat and pulled some people and pets out of danger.”

Obviously, with TV, picture trumps substance. But the desire to indulge in endless coverage of destruction permits what is known as weather pornography to evolve into catastrophe pornography and the consequence, as with all forms of pornography, is numbing. Viewers become desensitized and automatically long for much more dramatic, horrific footage. Perspective is lost, and talk and discussion appears to be redundant as pictures dominate.

As I am writing this, Hurricane Irma churns with magnificent force toward Florida, and Hurricane Jose is gaining strength in the Atlantic while Katia is bearing down on Mexico, which has only suffered a gigantic earthquake. The policy is surreal.

On CNN, a reporter in south Florida is, basically, extolling the virtue of “fierce individualism” in sailors who just defy orders to evacuate. In glowing terms, he is talking about people decided to “ride this out.” They have, he says, “studied the sea and the skies all their lives,” so that you can perhaps understand why they’re staying put.

It is all very intriguing in an eye-opening manner — a reminder that the first impulse in the American civilization is to praise and romanticize rugged individualism, however foolish the individualism may be. You know, authorities and other regional governments are insisting that people evacuate, but you haveta honor the stubborn.

It’s also a fact that the natural-disaster coverage only underlines the self-containment and solipsism of the U.S. media. Hurricane Irma has caused horrific damage across the Caribbean, but that news story amounts to footage of destruction from a distance, not focus to communities or people since, well, those communities and people are not as authentic or interesting since the alleged eccentrics of South Florida.

In actuality, watch all-news policy of those natural disasters being unleashed right now and there’s a huge amount of meaning to be extrapolated. It’s one of those events when the dynamic of watching TV is virtually immersive. Viewers are designed to be in awe of nature, a response that’s as old as the notion of romanticism, itself a reaction against intellectuality and rationality. Climate change, what climate change? Nature is only awe-inspiring in its fury and power. It is only a half-step from that place into the post-truth, anti-truth age all of us live in today. TV coverage can’t be expected to delve into all of the issues raised by numerous natural disasters. Anderson Cooper isn’t going to step up and speak about how obsessive coverage of nature’s fury leads straight to individuals believing that knowledge is obtained through intuition as opposed to deduction. Anderson Cooper will attempt and save a little kid or older person from flood, with the camera rolling.

It is up to those people who watch TV to recall how simple it’s to be numbed from the saturation coverage of giant waves, collapsing buildings and people clinging to the wreckage. It’s up to viewers to consider issues of infrastructure, security and what duties governments have. Numbed by over-stimulation from catastrophe porn, we could fail Earth and ourselves, and all-news TV is simply an enabler. When speech is beggared by graphics, it is time to respond by thinking hard.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *