Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Will Rhodes

In today's world it goes without saying that we have the ability to 'know' more than any previous generation.  By 'know' more I mean that we can be more informed.  We have the ability to know anything with one Google search.  And I think most people would agree that the Internet and other technologies have been a great asset to our lives.  But at what point should we be limited on what information we can find online?

Should we not be able to see what really happens in the world today?  Should we be kept in the shadows because we might not be able to handle what is going on in the world?  I hope not..

In a free country, it is our right to be able to find out what we want to know!  Just because what we want to know might be graphic or disturbing, to some, doesn't mean that we shouldn't be able to acquire the information.  Nonetheless, news outlets shouldn't limit what we see, but at the same time, they shouldn't force us to see what we may not want to see.

For example, in the case surrounding James Foley, information, pictures and video, should be online but out of sight.  That way those who are interested in learning more may seek out the information, and those viewers who don't want to see it do not have to.

I realize that the families of these people not only want nothing to do with such content but they also don't want others to be able to see it.  This is completely understandable... But sometimes in powerful situations like this it is meaningful to be able to 'see'.

Emmett Till's mother took this to heart and although she didn't want people to see her son's dead body she knew that people needed to see it.  She knew that it was powerful enough to get the conversation going.

But, the real problem arises because of news outlets publishing front cover photos that show controversial images, along with features like auto-play that are used on media sites like Twitter and Facebook.  Because of these two examples and more, viewers have been subject to countless videos and pictures that they didn't really want to see, graphic content or not.

The recent shooting in Roanoke, Virginia is a great example of why publishing controversial front page photos and allowing auto-play to stream graphic content is a bad idea.  The auto-play feature forced viewers to stand behind a gun and watch as innocent people died on a video posted by the gunman. 

Today it is our privilege to not have to know 'seemingly' important information.  We are ultimately so removed from things like what happened to James Foley, that our day-to-day lives wouldn't be affected whether we learned about the Foley execution the day of or if we learned about it today.  But we shouldn't be forced into seeing something that we never wanted to see.

But, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't care about what happened to Foley. The Internet and the technology we have are great tools for learning about what is going on in the world.  If we really buy in to the Internet, we should accept the responsibility to care about what is happening, whether we can 'handle' it or not.


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