Remember the iconic photograph of a naked screaming nine-year old Kim Phuc fleeing from the napalm attack on her village? And the less well-known ones of flaps of skin hanging from her dreadfully burnt body?
Have you ever seen soul-destroying photos of stacks of corpses of Holocaust victims? Or the heart-breaking images of skeletal children in the Nazi death camps? Huge eyes peering from skull-like faces atop of spindly limbs.
Ever caught sight of the baby seal-culling in Canada – with pools of blood reddening the ice floes? Ever seen photos of puppies being slaughtered and fried for the Yuilin Dog-Eating Festival?
All of the above have one thing in common. They are graphic and deeply distressing images. The visuals are seared into your memory and make for uncomfortable and even painful musing.
Still – they are evidence of reality. Perhaps it’s a reality in another moment in time or place or culture, but nevertheless a reality which exists. I can’t see why issues should arise about their viewing, simply because they reveal harsh realities that we may find traumatic. It’s all very well to want to avoid unpleasant images but it’s extreme to demand a sanitised, sugar-coated version of reality because we can’t face it.
A controversy of sorts arose about whether graphic images and videos of abortion should be shown to students. This occurred at the national sports school after students were shown such a video by a member of a pro-life network at the invitation of their PSD teacher. A cacophony of protest arose, with some parents bandying accusations of this being horribly traumatic and a form of indoctrination. The issue of whether parental consent was needed was also raised.
I’m mostly taken aback at the charges that such a video is traumatic and should not be shown to students who I assume are teens or pre-teens.
Why should we shield students from reality, even if it is messy, ugly or disturbing? So long as the material shown is accurately and truthfully described there is no reason to shy away from showing graphic material. To censor or refuse to show such material seems to be a bit of a cop-out – shying away from exposing reality.
It reminds me of the current trend for ‘safe places’ and ‘trigger warnings’ in American universities – where students are demanding separate spaces and warnings as to subjects of debates that could potentially upset or perturb them.
No photographs of the effects of sexually transmitted diseases to a 13- or 14-year-old just because the requisite form hasn’t been sent in?
No wonder they are dubbed ‘Generation Snowflake’ – amazingly touchy, prone to take offence and unable to countenance any opinions or facts that challenge their world view. When faced with an uncomfortable and unpalatable reality, their knee-jerk reaction is to back away and accuse others of intimidating or traumatising them.
How odd that so many people think it acceptable to sugar-coat reality. How is this going to help in raising emotionally and socially resilient students?
Should we demand a parental consent form every time educational and graphic images are shown during school hours? Of course, all material shown should be age-appropriate – gruesome war images need not be shown to primary school pupils, for example. But it’s rather absurd to demand a parental consent form every time graphic material is shown to teens or pre-teens.
No images of animal-testing with corrosive chemicals being sprayed into bunny rabbit eyes, until we get Mummy’s say so? For a 15-year old?
No photographs of the effects of sexually transmitted diseases to a 13- or 14-year-old just because the requisite form hasn’t been sent in? This when any child with a mobile phone can access the most graphic images imaginable with just one click?
This refusal to allow the next generation to countenance facts makes the outlook for rational debate very dismal. Different views or evidence will not be tolerated, under one pretence or other. That’s the new censorship for you. The censorship of the Snowflake Society.
■ While we’re at it, Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi has shown that he’s the biggest snowflake of all. After being asked a couple of questions by the very unscary journalist from the Labour media, Azzopardi called in the police, saying the Labour media were intimidating him. Luckily for him, the police were too stretched to jump into their cars, sirens flashing, to arrest the inoffensive journalist in question.
Azzopardi later apologised for the incident, but not before he had become the butt of a thousand jokes about the lethality of microphones. It was an amusing interlude and all, but it also sheds light on the current set of politicians who are only too happy to see their opponents on the receiving end of a journalist’s questions but shy away from answering questions directed at them.