Technological voyeurism

This morning’s Observer column on the ‘citizen reporting’ of the London bombings. Excerpt

I find it astonishing – not to say macabre – that virtually the first thing a lay person would do after escaping injury in an explosion in which dozens of other human beings are killed or maimed is to film or photograph the scene and then relay it to a broadcasting organisation.

Especially when one realises what was in this ‘amateur’ material. Some of the cameraphone video clips sent to ITV News, for example, were so graphic as to be ‘unusable’, according to the channel’s editor. I haven’t seen the clips, so can only imagine what they contained.But I can guess: images of human beings blown to pieces, missing limbs, intestines, perhaps even heads – sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters whose privacy has been invaded in the most intrusive way, even as they lay dying.

I suppose there will be arguments about how this imagery and footage is justified because it conveys so vividly the horrors of which terrorists are capable. But I don’t buy it, and I don’t think broadcasting organisations should either.

I’ve had some feedback already from this, mainly from people saying that I shouldn’t blame the technology. I agree: the problem is what the technology reveals about human nature.