Why do we like circulating photos of dead victims of violent crime?

Nobody will disagree that there are a lot of heinous crimes being perpetrated today, and a lot of it is going unpunished. Recently I saw a photo of the latest murder-rape victim making the rounds on Facebook. The photo depicted what the poster claimed to be “Sarah”, a 14-15 year old girl who was allegedly stabbed on the head with an icepick supposedly after being raped and then thrown onto a rice field in Iloilo.

murder_sceneI understand the outrage and the temptation to emphasize the point by exhibiting the bloodied corpses of the victims of these crimes. There are too many crimes like this where the victims’ families never see justice served. Our politicians continue to be focused on their vanity advocacies — like that whole kerfuffle surrounding that building that is supposedly ruining the view of the Rizal monument in Luneta. But violent crime seems to be regarded as a banal fact of Philippine life that no longer merits a place in politicians’ publicity agendas.

Nonetheless there is still the need to show some respect for the dead. Why do photos of dead people with faces uncovered keep circulating around the Net? Even more disappointing is that some of these photos are published by established mainstream media organizations!

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I recall reading about how many journalists around the world exercised a lot more restraint when it came to the video of the beheading of American journalist James Foley. A lot of them desisted from any further posting of the videos and its still images on Twitter, and those who already did pulled them off. Maybe it is time journalists and publishers in the Philippines take their cue from that show of respect exhibited by their peers in other countries.

What probably set the precedent for that sort of thing in the Philippines was the family of martyred national hero Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino Jr who decided to exhibit his bloodied remains as is after his assassination in 1983. Also, photos of his body on the tarmac of the Manila International Airport where he fell were widely-circulated.

But that’s a different thing altogether. Ninoy’s family gave consent for and even encouraged all that violence porn. My heart goes out to all those families who want to grieve in private and want their sons’ and daughters’ dignity protected.

Show a bit of respect. Violent crime is a big problem in the Philippines. But let us not let basic decency and respect be its other victims.

24 Replies to “Why do we like circulating photos of dead victims of violent crime?”

  1. The sensationalist approach that mass media uses likely whets the appetite of people for shocking things, so they likely pass around the most shocking things first.

    1. What is it they say? ‘If it bleeds, it leads.’

      I came across an article last year in the Stanford Report that explains our modern society’s morbid fascination with death as the result of the aftermath of World War II. Whereas the Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution promised a more positive future, two world conflicts drastically changed our collective vision of life in the twentieth century and the development of human society. The brutalities of the Holocaust and the horrors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in particular seared into our consciousness the human capacity for violence and mass destruction. Our cultural fixation on death (even fictionalized death) is a mechanism to help us cope emotionally with the possibility of impending doom, and, even more importantly perhaps, to work through the ethical and philosophical frameworks that were in many ways left shattered in the wake of WWII. These cultural manifestations of horror and death actually testify to the people’s desire to not only survive, but even possibly improve their world in the face of a seemingly impossible situation.

      Then again, it could just be blatant consumerism.

      1. BWAH HA HA!!! I wont repeat myself.
        BUT, You like to hear yourself talk dont you? You are so full of yourself, but that last sentence says a lot.Even you don’t believe that drivel you write.


        1. That is true. Human history is replete with examples of our obsession with death and the afterlife. Various peoples have formed religions — cults — devoted to avatars of death and death gods. The Babylonian Nergal, the Egyptian Osiris, the Greek Hades, Mictlantecuhtli in Central Mexico, have all had large followings through the millenia. However, these, notably, have some religious implication. Most modern twentieth and early twenty-first century attitudes do not have those connotations. Instead, the topic of death in various media is treated almost as an avocation or an amusement. Such as the common practice to hold séances during parties in the early part of the twentieth century. It isn’t a coincidence that this behaviour showing a renewed interest towards death and the afterlife emerged on the heels of the major conflicts and cultural upheavals which occurred in the past century.

  2. First Ninoy Aquino , Jr. , is not a Hero or a Martyr. His family allowed the photo of his dead body; in order to gain sympathy for votes. Ninoy Aquino , Jr. died for his Hacienda Luisita. He supplied the NPA with money, arms and financial support; which was a treasonous act.

    The Feudal Oligarchs made him a Hero; in order to gain control of the government. Our government is a Feudal Oligarchy; and the most corrupt in Asia, because of the Aquinos.

    People are now desensitized by the photos of crime victims. The Badder the news; the more they can sell newspapers; the better ratings for the TV stations.

    For the Islamic Militants; it is a way they can attract recruits; and show to the world , they can do evil things to satisfy their God :Allah. If they get killed on the battle; or by suicide bombings of infidels. They are supposed to enter Paradise, with 72 virgins waiting for them…

    The World has turned insane already…

    1. ISIS has releases videos of people : cricified on crosses; hundreds of people shot and dumped in mass graves.
      Women were whipped, because, they don’t cover their bodies, or were putting make-ups.

      This is the way, they advertise their power. The more outrageous the Killings; the better; they are noticed…

  3. @ Kate the cutie, It is to remind Filipino’s of what will happen to them if they step out of line!

    The Philippines is a unique place, so much violence on TV,high murder/crime rate,etc etc…Violence towards woman, kids getting shit slapped out of them, I could continue but you get the picture.It is there for a reason,and that reason ain’t good.

    1. Horrific gore’s fine, just don’t ever show any scenes of two men or two women romantically kissing because that shit will screw the kids up (?)

  4. Just compare the movie classification system in the Philippines and that of USA. When The Passion of Christ was aired in US, it has a R rating. In the Philippines, it’s rated at PG-13.

    1. I had never watched the film, because I kinda knew the story and it does not have a happy end. But joking aside.

      I saw the movie when it was played on a bus while going up north. Holy cow! That film is a sickening line up of torture scenes all the way through. And children on the bus were watching. I was horrified and a little sick to my stomach. A horror film like Saw per example pales in comparison.

  5. In the real world outside of the Philippines crime scenes are sealed off and no one is standing around. In Satan’s toilet bowl hundreds of people turn up including very young children. What sort of parent would allow their young child to go and look at a chopped up bloody dead body laying in the street? TV camera’s turn up and the crowd are giggling and laughing waving at the camera. They should a complete lack of empathy towards the victim or the victims kin.
    Then to top if off the police will only investigate the crime if the victims family pay.

    1. I myself saw a dead body lying beside a major roadway onboard a jeepney passing by. Apparently he died from a motorcycle accident by the looks of a downed motorcycle nearby. He was possibly drunk or it’s a case of hit-and-run. Lots of bystanders loitering around including small children. Some police officers also loitering around and talking, none of them doing anything about the gathering of people around them. No perimeter of any sort to prevent people nor motorists from disturbing the scene. No ambulance and no paramedics.

      Par for the course in the Banana Republic.

  6. What’s the shenanigans about customer service relations and being professional ? Then muting the system, and whining like a bitch, when your job is to serve the public. These csr should expect what they get from their job, or stfu and leave your job.

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