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The Pornography of Video Violence

April 5, 2011

There is gruesome, and then there is gruesome. I hardly ever post a blog piece in a state of anger, but I’m making an exception now.

I’ve just watched a YouTube video – sent to me by someone I know – that purports to be of an act of spectacular cruelty. I have no idea whether it was staged, but I suspect not, because it was such a cack-handed piece of video. Someone who was staging it would have had more professional pride, and would probably have shown even more details to ram home the message.

Assuming it was genuine, it would appear to be from somewhere in this region. The video identifies where, but I’m not going say, just as I’m not going to specify the act, because I don’t want to be responsible for driving traffic to it.

My anger is about two things. First that a baying mob should believe that their God would approve of what was being done in His name. Second, that YouTube and its owner Google (whose motto, remember, is “do no evil”), should think that it’s OK to carry stuff like this that can be accessed by a ten-year-old.

Yes, we know that there’s some pretty horrible stuff circulating around the internet. But when “extreme content” makes it on to YouTube, then the chance that it is seen by the young and impressionable is drastically increased.

I’m not squeamish. I believe in free speech and I’m generally against censorship of any kind. But there are limits. There is right and wrong. By my moral code, it’s wrong that ten-year-olds should be exposed to pornography and grow up with a skewed idea about sex before they’ve ever had a sexual encounter. It’s wrong that that kids of the same age should be able to find videos of unspeakable violence in the same place as they watch their Justin Bieber videos.

When I was growing up in the UK, we had a self-appointed TV watchdog called Mary Whitehouse, who generated a lot of publicity through her campaigns against obscenity on TV and in the movies. I and most of my friends thought her a self-righteous old cow for trying to stop us from seeing the odd naughty bit in some avant garde TV drama. She would act in the grand tradition of the self-appointed censor by saying “I haven’t personally seen it, but from what I’ve been told….”

If she’d lived into the 2010s, she would have been in a permanent state of gibbering outrage.

Unlike Mary Whitehouse, I’ve seen stuff. The chances are that you have as well.

Yes, I know there are parental control settings in most applications, including Google. But there are also millions of parents who exercise minimal control over what their kids watch on TV and on the internet. That should be on their consciences.

I have no idea if Larry Page and Sergei Brin, founders and major shareholders of Google, have young kids. But I wonder how they sleep at night in the knowledge that the source of their fortune is responsible for giving a generation of youngsters access to the pornography of extreme violence.

This is not a generational issue. People have the right to make choices. But there’s a difference between positive choice and neglect. My kids are just about grown up. I’m sure they saw some stuff we wouldn’t have liked them to see, hard as we tried to protect them – hopefully they’re not too much the worse for it. But I wonder if most of the mums and dads whose kids are growing up today really have much idea about what’s a few clicks away on their offspring’s laptops.

So there we are. I’m angry at the violence, I’m angry about people who use extreme violence to distort, lie and manipulate, and I’m angry about the billionaires who allow their media to be the peep show for the violence.

Extremely angry.

From → Media, Middle East, Social

  1. James permalink

    It would have been helpful if you had given some indication of what the video was about? It’s impossible to make any sort of a judgment regarding what you may have seen.

    Youtube allows flagging of violent videos as I have done several times in the past. They do not allow pornography, and based on my experience they will remove these promptly when notified.

    As far as parents exerting minimal control, what can you do? That’s always going to be the case.

    • James: I didn’t provide any clue about the content because I didn’t want to give the video the “oxygen of publicity”. Suffice it to say that it showed an extremely violent act that would not have been shown on any TV station I’m aware of – even Al Jazeera, which tends to go further than some.

      You’re quite right that Youtube allows you to flag offensive content, and I should have notified them. But this was the only occasion I can remember when I was so angry that I went straight to a post!

      The interesting thing is that the title – which doesn’t appear in the URL – gave a very explicit pointer as to what the video was about. So it would have shown up on a search of the site. Does Youtube not have its own system that flags up suspect content to moderators? Videos can go viral very quickly. Does Youtube wait for a complaint, or act pre-emptively? If time permits I’ll go to them to try and get their position.

  2. Mr. Royston, todays technology has really gotten out of control. Any child with a reasonable sense of websurfing could stumble across tings that should not be viewed by young children. We as parents and adults are the policemen of our offspring and those youths that we have gaurdianship over….responsible for!

    As a parent myself of 5 girls ranging in age from 16-22, and being brought up in this day and age, I often find it virtually impossible to monitor who they are speaking to or interacting with. That is why I am an avid promoter of a new technology monitor…and it’s called KidZafe!

    KidSafe, in it’s early stages, was developed by an IT Specialist whose son was being pusued by a Pedophile. Needless to say that the actions of this individual were thwarted, but it does not dismiss the fact that there are people out there, like him, looking for children to harm or enslave, exploit or damage them for their own pleasure. KidZafe, now called, wa designed to keep parents/gaurdians aware of their child’s activities through media sites, email, and cell phone texting via messages sent by email or to the adults cellular device. It is definitely top notch. We have our 16yr old daughter signed up in it right now.

    • Thanks Eugene. I’m aware that there are some interesting new developments and products coming on to the market. I’m glad this one is working for your family. Ultimately it’s up to those of us who are parents to draw a line between safety and freedom to explore – this obviously goes for the physical world as well as the online one. But the internet content providers need to play their part also.

  3. D. Ch'an-Moriwaki permalink

    I wrote a comment to this article which appeared in the Gulf Daily News which may not have posted, as there was a glitch with the Submit button. As best as I can remember what I said, here is that comment, as follows

    I don’t know what you saw which you write about here, but, for your discretion, your respect, and your honesty in saying what needs to be said, BRAVO!!!

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