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October 23, 2011

A Dead Qaddafi and the Media: Some Modest Thoughts

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If you've been anywhere near a TV, newspaper or magazine this week, odds are you got a glimpse or more than that of Muammar Qaddafi's dead body, face or bloody wounds up close.  Personally, I'm happy for the Libyan people and won't lose any sleep because Qaddafi is dead, but I do question the broad dissemination of the images of Qaddafi's bloody face all over network and local news. 

First there was the shaky camera phone footage of Qaddafi when he was captured, alive but bloody.  Then there was the footage of his body being dragged through the streets after he was dead.  Then finally, the shots of his dead body in a meat locker where some Libyans understandably lined up to get a glimpse to prove that indeed Qaddafi was dead.

I'm surprised there wasn't more debate in American media circles about whether or not so much gruesome footage of Qaddafi should have been used.  During the first couple of days of coverage, there were warnings from news anchors before showing the footage, but by the end of the week, the shots just showed up out of nowhere.

Is it okay because he was universally considered a bad guy and deserving of whatever punishment the Libyans decided he should have?  Is it because once the footage was out there on the internet the networks and local stations didn't want to feel left behind?

Call me old fashioned and maybe the least bit squeamish, but I wish more restraint had been shown, because the almost casual broadcasting of the images has only added to our already high desensitization to that kind of violence.

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