Oh Boy! More Crying Strangers! Children Too!

Hardly a day goes by now without my being subjected to online news stories featuring oversized pictures of people I do not know wailing hysterically, mournfully, helplessly about some “tragedy” or other.

Today it’s a school shooting in Colorado (and the picture this time is of a small boy — no child exploitation there!); a couple of days ago it was something else. No story is too local, too historically insignificant, or too self-explanatory, for the news media — i.e., the moral-suasion-as-entertainment industry — to take the opportunity to inundate us with images of transient suffering. 

This continual bombardment of masochism-fodder is both dehumanizing and desensitizing. It is also, of course, a cheap and ready-made tool of political convenience, as in the case of a school shooting.

“Look at that crying little boy! How can we allow this bloodshed to continue?” Such effusions, stated or evoked, represent both the profiteering “angle” (aka mock heartbreak) and the political value (aka mock outrage) of such news imagery. 

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