There was a lot of debate about editorial choices when I published the story about the Leader of the Opposition’s wife seeking a separation from him. It was a debatable choice. So the debate is understandable.
These couple of days there has been some discussion about other editorial decisions some have taken.
There was the video of the young man who struggled in vain for his life hanging from a height that would kill him. I have not looked at the video. It’s one of those things you play in your head using the description of what’s in them but not seeing the actual pictures. That somehow allows you to come to terms with the horror they contain and move on. It reminds me of the videos that ISIS used to circulate in its heady days of conquest of people screaming as they are beheaded or set on fire in a cage. Without detracting in any way from the horror, the literal image itself is something I think I’d rather live the rest of my life without seeing.
I did watch the video of the soldier who drove around the pointless and expensive gate. I heard him swear and I heard his mates giggle. And intuitively I felt the man would get into trouble. There is something in our unconscious that makes us expect a man in uniform to be fired when seen on a video acting outside disciplined strictures.
To be sure this was no Abu Ghraib video of soldiers torturing people. Nor was it one of those videos of the airline pilots having a quickie in the toilet of the cabin.
I really do sympathise with the soldier that now appears to have lost his job in disgrace. I sympathised him when I saw the video before anyone published it. I especially sympathised with him because in his own way he was a whistleblower pointing out his superiors’ inefficient management, their stupid spending, their amateurish security decisions, their incompetence and ineffectiveness.
His superiors would not like us saying that about them. And they would be able to use the fact that the decision on what to do about him was in their hands. He broke rules when being naughty in front of his mate’s camera and his bosses — who broke far worse rules as he was pointing out — could fire him for it.
But who fires them?
We cannot discount the fact that the video of the dismissed soldier is, after all, a clumsy outlet for a perfectly correct sense of frustration and indignation. The soldier had no reasonable recourse that would have protected him if he raised the alarm on his bosses’ inadequacy. He let off steam by joking about it with his mates. And he got the chop for it.
That’s just not fair.
A fate worse than losing his job and career as a soldier is the end the construction worker met and displayed so dramatically on the video shown by some media yesterday.
Unlike the soldier’s video, I did not have a copy of the video of the construction incident before others published it. I did not have to struggle with the decision on whether to publish or not. I did not even have to have the misfortune of seeing it unwarned about its content.
I’m not going to criticise those who chose to publish the video. I’m not sure I have any criticism to make. The fact that people who suffer directly the loss of a family member or friend in such a horrible way also have to suffer the knowledge that people are watching a video of him going down is unfortunate. But the media did not cause this tragedy. They are the wrong targets.
But there are causes of that death: discrimination against migrants; a flippant attitude to health and safety; a complete absence of enforcement; a casual regard to human life, especially if foreign, especially if Muslim, especially if Libyan.
A few weeks ago I asked why is it that when children have been raped in State care, no inquiry is conducted to determine administrative and political responsibility beyond the narrow criminal cause.
The poor lad who fell yesterday was not thinking of public inquiries as he his end rushed up to swallow him. He had no mind to blow whistles and indict the unfairness that killed him.
But in an entirely involuntary way, he too is a whistleblower on video. He too points out the stupidities of public administration and the inability of those who witness it, suffer from it, are even killed by it, to raise the flag.
They both testify to a national malaise of indifference tickled only by the sundry blasphemies of a witty soldier and the terminal struggle of a man who will not live. Only to return to indifference moments later as no one asks anything of the people responsible for their spoken or unspoken complaints.
A soldier is fired because he thought it was ridiculous that a gate was built at great expense that anyone could drive around and said so in a clumsy video meant for friends that spread too far too quickly.
And a man falls to his death because he moved to a country for a decent existence and his life was hung by a tether twenty metres above the ground until the tether snapped.
And the matters stop there.
Really, the videos are the least of our problems.