Even after the image of Alan Kurdi’s small, lifeless body became iconic across the globe, devastating images of Europe’s migrant crisis continue to flood the media. Are we becoming immune to the refugee pandemic? How do people look at refugees?
How the ‘Concerned Gaze’ Looks at the Spectacle
As a teen, my best friend’s mother was a morning show journalist for a local radio station. This was in the mid-90s. There met the crossroads between simpler T.V.-viewing times and the now ubiquitous use of the internet to disseminate news and information.
Local television stations were known to try to boost their Nielsen ratings, by implementing “Sweeps Weeks”.
At that time, the guiding principle of local news stations was to attract increased viewership (and therefore better paying advertisers) with what my friend’s mom called “Blood Sells”. This was her quip of the journalism adage: “If it Bleeds, it Leads.”
Sadly, our viewing habits are now much harder to control. Currently, we have the ability to indulge in both gore and human interest stories from hundreds of biased sites. Making it easier to “connect” to the avalanche of global human rights abuses and deaths anytime we like. Or anytime it’s pushed onto our screens.
However, it’s apparent that the old ways of presenting and consuming news are proving hard to kill. Pun intended.
We now “see” the situations in many war-torn countries. We learn of the conditions under oppressive regimes, and far-reaching outcomes of pervasive global poverty, modern-day slavery, and human trafficking.
Intertwined throughout are media portrayals of the diaspora of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers from these ongoing crises. This reporting bombardment—coupled with social media sharing—has us all accustomed to seeing the everyday tragedies of refugees. Does the inundation leave us feeling called to do much of anything about it?
Are We Heartless, Yet?
It’s not always that we don’t feel! For many, lying to ourselves that we don’t care or can’t do anything substantial about the problems, is a survival mechanism. We’re shielding ourselves from getting in too deep and feeling too much.
The state of our world is no doubt both overwhelming and completely out of hand. But then again, we humans have always manufactured our own tragedies.
What comes to you of good is from Allah, but what comes to you of evil, [O man], is from yourself. And We have sent you, [O Muhammad], to the people as a messenger, and sufficient is Allah as Witness.”(Qur’an 4:79)
We just didn’t—until late—all participate in this global internet making it easier to share about the tragedies and SEE them.
The refugee/migrant problem is so extreme in some places. In Tarifa, Spain there are recovery systems in place to remove the near daily washed ashore bodies of drowned migrants.
These bodies are whisked away right alongside holidaying beach-goers. (As famously documented by photographer Javier Bauluz). Citizens of the shores upon which these bodies find their final resting place are often shamed for their seeming indifference.Pages: 1 2