This week, facebook’s choice to reverse a ban on violent content has come under discussion from just about every news source I have encountered. For those of us catching up on the news, the discussion was initially sparked by a video recorded in Mexico that depicted a woman being beheaded by a masked man.
I should state up front that I am not a journalist—I’m a poet by training, so this post will be a poet’s interpretation of the matter and while I will do my very best in recording the latest and most accurate details to inform my post, for the most accurate details and news on this matter, you should look elsewhere.
Many have voiced that they agree with the reason facebook has allowed the content. A facebook spokesman stated in response to a BBC report— that its users have a right to show and comment on the world in which they live and experience, and that, “Facebook has long been a place where people turn to share their experiences, particularly when they’re connected to controversial events on the ground, such as human rights abuses, acts of terrorism and other violent events…”
I agree with this philosophy to a point. But like the many who have commented on the issue, I also feel a line has been crossed. It feels unsettling that people could witness/experience the violent death (virtually) and in the next moment, watch a viral video of a cat playing the piano.
One argument against letting this content or other content like it remain on the site is that it could “potentially cause psychological damage to users, who can be as young as 13…” By far this is the best reason I’ve heard, and facebook has said that said they will work on providing warning labels so no one is caught completely off guard.
And then there’s still the argument that content considered more minor in comparison, such as nudity is removed from facebook as part of their policy, while a violent beheading is allowed to remain. The whole situation feels confusing. It is.
What is the impact and depth to which reversing this ban has “crossed a line?” Why do we have this unsettled feeling about it all?
First off, what is this “line” that has been crossed actually referring to?
In a postmodern system of values, do we even have the ability to say there is a line? Truth, morality, it’s all subjective, right?
What exactly are we dealing with? Freedom of speech and Censorship? Promotion of justice? Ethics and politics?
The reasons for and against are valid, however I think they answer the wrong questions and they fail to articulate the severity of the experience of watching another human being lose their life at the hands of another. This is more than just freedom of speech. It’s has something to do with the fact that it could cause psychological damage, but I think it’s even beyond that, and deeper than being in bad taste in general. Watching the death of another human being gets at our very understanding (or lack there of) of our mortality.
A person’s last, sacred moments on this planet. Life and death are a great mystery and so, they are sacred.
Forgive the drama of the one word line, reading death, dropped and separated by the rest of the text.
no. I don’t apologize
for that. In fact, stare at it by itself for a while until it sinks in.
Have we as a society become so callus as to fail to recognize that death is sacred? birthpainsinlovesjoysuffereingsexdeathfaithdoubtcompassioncruelty… These are all things of the human experience. They are connected to our core values. They are experiences that compel us to think about why we do or do not believe in God, how we make life decisions, how we determine our purpose, why and how we live or suffer. The question at hand, whether something as serious as the death of another human being can be watched and circulated on something as widely popular as facebook, is not an just an ethical question or a question of what will allow us the greatest freedom of speech and expression.
It’s a spiritual question.
I can feel the tension in saying this. I know this is taboo, however, I beleive that with this issue, we’ve stumbled head first into a postmodern clusterfumble where ethical meets political meets spiritual. The uncomfortable types of questions and thought that require more of us than black or white answers make up the reasons why “lines” have been crossed.
In my experience, condemning people, and trying to coerce them into seeing why I am right and they are wrong is about as effective at producing change as yelling at the sky is to make it rain. In my opinion, its more about how a person conducts his or herself that will be an influence to those around them.
So, no matter what side of the argument you’re on, no matter which lines are placed in front of you to cross or stay behind, think about what kinds of questions you are asking and answering so you can fight the temptation to see these issues as black and white or only a political. Life is complex and thus deserves a complex examination.