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Violent Photographs: To Post or not to Post

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Ever since the post-election crisis, I have been paying close attention to the disturbing practice of sharing graphic photographs on Facebook walls. Recently, a bomb blast hit several churches in Naija. When the news came to you, the Christmas chicken and rice you were munching on had to have left a bitter taste in your mouth.

Christmas, as most of us have come to believe, is supposed to be a day of thanksgiving, love, and joy. Surrounded by family and friends, we are supposed to feel a sense of security and comfort. Not so for the 30 or so killed when a bomb blast struck a church in Abuja. It is at times like this that we understand the value of social networks like Facebook. In a matter of hours, fellow Nigerians at home and abroad had joined the bereaved families in mourning. Others were twitting their outrage. Still others were calling out to the government to wake up from its stupor. In a way, it’s nice to know that whether we are at home or 6000 miles away, social networks are there to bring us together and give us a space to mourn or think or laugh together. If the current protests against fuel subsidy are anything to go by, social networks also give us the means to fight together against oppression.

But then, there should an ethical limit to what we can share or circulate on social networks. For example, it’s hard to justify posting and sharing photos of dead bodies disfigured by violence. I guess it’s natural to feel drawn to the blood and the gore even though they are no eye candy. Bodies with missing limbs. Things that are supposed to be inside the body are spilled out on the ground. Blood, dark and gooey, all over. Perhaps there is a part of us that wants to fulfill the dark fantasy of staring the frightful truth of death in the face. But that justifies nothing. This is why.

Some of us hate to be caught on Facebook looking anything but great! We insist on telling that friend with the over-active camera in the club which photos are Facebook-approved and which are absolutely not. What makes us think that that changes because of death? I dont think it’s okay ever ‘ok’ to gawk at a deceased person, lying in the grass, breasts hanging out, eyes rolled up, legs broken and open, with mud everywhere. Why take liberties with the bodies of the dead that we would not have dared when they were alive? 

The insensitivity of making such images an object of curiosity to potentialy 800 million users of Facebook, Twitter and the whole websphere is unfair at the very least. Shouldn’t there be some level of respect accorded even in death? t is simply about respect. Is death not enough misfortune for one person?  

Consider the family. Lost in the passion of curiosity, we tend to lose sight of the fact that these victims are real people with families and neighbors and classmates and coworkers and Facebook friends. The photo that began circulating on Facebook on Tuesday the 3rd is sad. Full frontal view of this gentleman who died at one of the Occupy Nigeria rallies. His face. His name. And his bloody chest splashed on Facebook. You didn’t’ even have to click on any link. People were posting the photos on their walls. When people die like that, my guess is that the loss is still fresh in the minds of their loved ones. They are still trying to wrap the unexpected tragedy around their heads. They are still deep in mourning. Can they not be spared photos that cheapen the memory of their loved lost one?

Some people might argue that publicly sharing photographs of victims of violence does some good. They claim that these photos bear witness to the wrongfulness of violence. When we look at these photos as a community, we are shocked into realizing how bad things are in our societies and we are moved to change things. I disagree. The moral value of shocking photography is totally overrated. If anything, it makes us desensitized. Besides, victims of violence do not cry out against their killers through pictures. They cry out through the hard fact of their death. Between Yobe, Jos and Abuja, about five churches were bombed. Lots of people died. At present, we are hearing of people being shot and wounded at the Subsidy protests. What other testimony do we need to realize that the government is not doing something right? So let us mourn with the bereaved but leave them their dead to bury in one piece and in peace. This is my humble suggestion

Aluta Continua!

 

I'm finishing up a phd at Duke University where I study African novels, which I believe are some of the loveliest things ever written. Brittle Paper is a blog where I live and write fun and ridiculous things about African literature and the African literary scene. Come say hi at {brittlepaper.com} Twitter handle: @brittlepaper Instagram: @brittlepaper

32 Comments

  1. partyrider

    January 6, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Oh thank you..at least someone understands what i’ve been saying..
    i even saw someone use that pic as their profile picture..really? are you normal? why use that kind of pic for a profile picture..and i keep asking are these people sane at all? even a dead body deserves respect..an accident has occurred,the next thing Nigerians are posting the horrible scene on the web and nobody is calling for help.you take a pic and walk by,does it make you happy? is there some kind of joy that comes with posting such? #rantover!!

  2. Ola

    January 6, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    I agree….even the media doesn’t post pictures without warning the viewers first. But, every Nigerian is now a photographer or an i-witness reporter…..mscheww!!

  3. Pellu

    January 6, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    Well said my dear

  4. elizachee

    January 6, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    The sight of those pictures is so gory and grotesque!

  5. Judith Ajike

    January 6, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    Ethical limit to what? You definitely haven’t lost anyone close to you in these bombings? You definitely do not know what it feels like for a dear one’s life to be cut off while doing normal things. People need to see the reality of what is happening in this country. Are you saying we should cover these things up because we want to paint to the world that Nigeria is a peaceful and delightful place? The world needs to know and reality need to hit each and everyone of us to come together and fight this terrorism, oppression from one another while the government is sitting pretty and telling us to get used to loved ones dying around us. So Ainehi Edoro, you need to do proper investigative reporting before you write articles from your personal discomfort of gory pictures as it’s the reality of the Nigeria we now live in.

    • Ken

      January 6, 2012 at 4:49 pm

      See what reality??? That you are abusing some individuals privacy..is that a reality? I beg your pardon! Victims have rights too. You can get your message accross without the use of such pictures. If you really care about the victims how about some research – approach the family of thevictims, get some decent pictures, conduct interviews with those they’ve left behind, publish a decent report of the victims life before the tragedy. By doing so, you would have painted a more honourable and lasting image of this victim. See how the Americans mourned the victims of 911. How many dead body photos did you see? That is called respect! We should learn that.

    • molly

      January 6, 2012 at 10:15 pm

      I wish there was a “like” button to click for this comment. You hit the nail on the head.

    • kiki

      January 7, 2012 at 12:59 pm

      Do u realise that the Nigerian media will never report what is happening the way it is. people in the south will hear of these events and wont know the severity of the matter, if ur waiting for NTA to report it u will wait till tomorro. In this case for passers by to take the pictures and put it online a powerful way to reach out to the whole country. So that you and i will know the severity of the case. Yes i knw their are some crazy people who are just self appointed-chance upon photo journalist. Like the picture of the accident of the musican MC Loph was quite distasteful.

    • rogotigi

      January 6, 2012 at 7:29 pm

      Isit until u lose smeone close to yu b4 u av an opinion on this kind of issue? The worst part of the story is that these pple posting the pictures don’t even know the victims.smh
      Dyu think families or relatives of such victims(whose pics fly over fcbk etc) wud be happy to see their loved one’s gory picture over the internet?
      Taking such pics dsnt serve justice in anyway…

  6. Ken

    January 6, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    I am totally against posting of violent photographs. Sadly, some bloggers now use the photos of victims as a means to get hits on their site. This is so wrong. I see it as tasteless and very disrespectful to the victi
    ms. You won’t want to see a photo of your relative in such a manner. Please let’s respect each other

  7. Touchedbyanangel

    January 6, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    disadvantages of BB and the likes. but wait a minute, the world needs to know & feel the heat we r in na

  8. BeautyFULL

    January 6, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    I totally agree with the writer.Also,the posting of pictures of diseased people.Facebook is not a medical site,I stumbled across one such picture and believe me,I didn’t find it pleasant or funny.Please people just stop abeg

  9. trickalist

    January 6, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    that’s what happens when illiterates now own blackberries and smart phones…reminds me of the disgust i felt when photos of Titi Arowolo’s chopped up body were constantly tossed in our faces

  10. chukwuka

    January 6, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    na bad tin to express ya sef??

  11. MyView

    January 6, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    I think this article is about another blogger who has been getting more attention lately maybe? I do agree that these pictures are gruesome and do in some ways violate the privacy of the victims and their families, but they really need to be out there. Our President and leaders need to see them, the general public and international community need to see them to put that visual and reality effect to it. It hits home hard with the pictures, it brings out awareness amongst us and maybe action and change will come through these violent images.
    I also respect your decision not to show them on this site, but Bella is not based on reality, it is based on fantacy where 118 people all agree that pictures of Mercy Johnson on a magazine is of her with no photoshop, no weave, no makeup, flawless and that she is the most beautiful thing on the planet. While the reality of that is the same exact opposite. There is a real world outside what you do here and we all don’t have pass the kool-aid and pretend everything is shinny and fabulous. The reality is that Nigeria is ravaged with violence, death, poverty corruption which affect MOST of it’s citizens. You only show the fashion part of it but someone has show the other sides.

    • missk

      January 6, 2012 at 7:25 pm

      Thank you!!! I agree COMPLETELY! I love Bellanaija but I don’t come to this site for anything other than feel good, bubbly feelings. Even now that the issue of the fuel subsidy is rocking the nation it’s still very much show must go on here. I’m not hating,its just that BN is good at what they do and ‘someone’ else is good at keeping their finger in the hot stories and not just fluff pieces even if it’s through sensationalism *shrug*. I understand being respectful to victims but these stories aren’t just for us, nigerians, they raise awareness globally as well as furor and as long as there are options to view it , hence the ‘click to read more tab’, honestly I’m for it. A picture is worth a thousand words.
      P.S. If you watch TV, trust me, you’re already desensitized.

    • rogotigi

      January 6, 2012 at 7:42 pm

      so what’s your point?

    • partyrider

      January 6, 2012 at 10:00 pm

      i dont know why you think this is about another blogger,i dont understand the digression,seriously..
      BN has a mission statement and i’m sure they keep to that..simple! its like you wanting vogue Italia to suddenly start writing about the recession and other political or societal issues..the have their focus, so those BN..plus is NOT like BN is ALL about entertainment.
      i can boldly say that for EVERY pressing issue in nigeria,BN has highlighted it here in one way or the other..
      oh by the way,the inspiring/motivating stories we’ve read here, i am sure you havent seen such on the ‘other blog’..pls lets discuss the topic,simple!!!
      this isn’t about which blog gets more attention or is getting more attention…both blogs are doing well,lets leave them to do their work..shikena!!

  12. cent

    January 6, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    I completely agree with the writer on all point! its exactly the same battle i have been fighting with those close to me on the insensitivity and cruel mobid fascination we have with death. the fact that every dumb ass out there totting a camera is tweeting facebooking or blogging dis or dat in other to drive cheap traffic doesn’t make it right. @judith…..imagine its your mother, father. brother or sister lying in dirt covered in his own gore, splayed in the indignity of death, would u want to even loook at it 4 a minute not to talk of letting a multitude of people globally gawk at it? i would think not! so b4 u sprew brainless shit consider it 4 a moment next time. there is no reason on earth to post those kind of pix on any social media or personal social or communication device. i think its shows a strain of darkness in any who can post such on any platform. hissssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss

  13. Sia

    January 6, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    People need to stop saying the world needs to see what we are going through. What ye ye world? Can someone please tell me the help Nigeria has received from “the world” With the countless pictures people have already posted.
    Daft excuse!
    Instead the world is looking at us as barbarians/ animals/ n*ggas in Africa.
    The world will be not come close to being the last thing on your mind when you find a photo of a loved one(dead) all over Facebook. We are Ill-mannered.

  14. Purpleicious Babe

    January 6, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    I do not feel comfortable looking at any pics of the dead. I remember clicking on a news tab, saw the first pic and said nope… am done here, Not looking any further. WHY: this was someone that was alive a minute ago, dressed up and prepping for the service and this happens???

    Not choosing to read further doesnt mean I didnt get the message or I didnt sympathize with the people that experienced the pain and anguish and even passed away. The answer is Yes, I felt it already by listening to the News and others telling me, the pics didnt have to tell the story, most especially an indecent pic of the person who has passed away.

    All I can say is, do onto others as you want them to do to you. If u circulate pics without respect or admonishment besure when its ur turn and someone circulates it, u cant complain.

    I agree with the article we should be respectful, but then again PEOPLE WILL ALWAYS BE PEOPLE…

  15. Ignorance is Bliss

    January 6, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    The author of this article is a 100% right. I do not feel any sympathy for the victims when i see their dismembered bodies because i can barely look at them. It is so disrespectful to the victims family members to have such pictures floating around like it is something to celebrate. For all of you saying the rest of the world needs to see those pictures, think about you being the victim to such a terrible crime and people posting the picture of your DEAD BODY as their display picture of BB. It is SO so IGNORANT. I am always shocked when i see bloggers post it are you kidding me. What value does the picture add to the deceased life….Nothing. I blame this on the education system in Nigeria that produced so many socially irresponsible people. I mean if all this so called Reporters would sit down and think about the deceased family members and not their blog rating they would not do it. Bellan Naija that why I still come on your site because you did not partake in this nonsense trend…please keep doing what you too joor. Blog toh Bad.

  16. Naomi

    January 7, 2012 at 2:19 am

    I agree with most of the article.gory pictures should not be posted on Fb or BB.personally I unfriend anyone that does it.we are all so desensitized to death it is shocking.
    Blogs and news websites can post graphic pictures with prior warning.good things happen in Nigeria everyday BN highlights that.we cannot ignore the perils going on today.we need to pray for our beloved country.

  17. alo alo

    January 7, 2012 at 3:30 am

    story story..Obviously the author is indirectly pointing fingers at linda ikeji. BN never carries news that are important to the masses. The only news you guys carry is of the rich marrying the rich. You guys don’t focus on serious issues other bloggers focus on..Why type an article to condemn other bloggers. You did not see any other blogger put up a post indirectly attacking you guys. Please just do what you do which is to make people feel good and show us wedding pics of the rich marrying the rich…..I’m not saying pics of dead people should be posted. I’m just saying why put up a post attacking other bloggers indirectly…That’s very hypocritical……You guys do not carry important news like how some guy was killed by the navy. Sit there and keep deceiving yourselves with stupid grammar.

  18. blogtroll

    January 7, 2012 at 4:10 am

    Its obvious poor people are no didferent to pesky flies to some of you, their existence doe not matter wether dead or alive. http://m.theatlantic.com/infocus/2011/07/famine-in-east-africa/100115/Would u advocate that the linked and other similar blogs be shut down?

  19. Supremacist

    January 7, 2012 at 4:58 am

    This is what happens when barbarians own smartphones.

  20. faith

    January 7, 2012 at 6:19 am

    I am one of dos dat post n broadcast pictures of decreased persons n from today henceforth I will never do it again… »̶-̶̶ †̥ånKz-► for d enlightenment…neva saw it dat way…it culd av been me or some1 close τ̅☺ me!

    • obi-talk

      January 9, 2012 at 3:33 am

      Thank you Faith for your admission and I hope that many others will be like you, I admire you for saying openly what you have just said.

  21. fanntassie

    January 7, 2012 at 10:16 am

    kai, u hit the nail on the head with this article. Since the advent of smart phones I have had my sensibilities offended by these insensitive acts exhibited by ppl. I have been lucky not to have known any of the victims personally but each time a gruesome pic popped up on my page my heart went out to the loved ones of these victims. I hope more people read this article and understand why they need to stop these acts of degradation…Thank you Ainehi

  22. nok25

    January 7, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    If pictures must be posted,at least blur the faces of the victims.
    I agree with Myview and Missk, Nigeria is NOT Italy so the Italian vogue comparison is way off. I also come to Bellanaija to read the fluffy, feel good stuff. However, that is not the reality on the ground. Most Nigerians are living under $2.00 a day – its like a ritzy lifestyle for few and a third world existence for the rest of the country. We need a peaceful revolution in Nigeria. In addition, we need a change of mentality from this obsession with high class existence on a low class income; we need to go back to the way we were in the 70s and 80s before greed and materialism set in.

  23. Cynthia Fayomi

    January 7, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    this is the result of waaaay too much social networking
    http://liveloveandbefabulous.blogspot.com/

  24. obi-talk

    January 9, 2012 at 3:24 am

    May God bless you for writing this article and continue to increase your intellect. I thot I was the only one in this country who is very disturbed about the way people post dead bodies. It is so disrespectful and I will public say that I have absolutely no respect for any one who posts such pictures of those who are gone. It just means that you have no respect for the dead! How can you have the mind to post the picture of a totally naked dead person, what kind of wickedness is in this society and why???

    There are even cases of Nigerian celebrity tweeting the dead picture of another dead Nigerian celebrity, for anything Sake are you a monkey? How can you tweet such a picture without the permission of the deceased family. pls In Nigeria we have to learn ethics and no press or person has the right to publish such gory and intimate pictures without permission from the family. Families also have the right to ask Nigerians and the press to pls pull down such a picture. Nigerians, pls we have to have common sense in this country, we can’t carry on like this. Any of my Facebook friends who ever puts up such a picture or even the moral audacity to tag me in such a picture. I will tell you off and when I finish I will defriend you, Gbam! Because it just shows that you have no respect for the dead. And remember whatever you sow you will reap. Don’t do unto others what you don’t want done unto you. As for Nigerian celebrities who encourage this foolishness, I will not waste my time buying your music or celebrating you either since you do not have the common sense to have common sense. this my response is long but this article will surely touch a raw nerve amongst several Bella readers, so I’m sure there will be several long responses.

    Lets us all continue to pray for our country, and we must come together to stop oppression. Pls send this very timely article to other sites so that this awareness can spread. We really need to help ourselves in this country.

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