Qandeel Baloch murder: Why are we fascinated by death in all its gore?

At around a little after midnight I was idly going through my Facebook page when my eyes feel upon this most grotesque picture of five burnt bodies with a caption in a language I could not read. I almost vomited. Who would put such a shot without warning and do we all taken leave of our sense that we have said yes to strangers to post on our site with ‘shock’ value visuals that even children can see.

Interspersed with people sitting in business class aircraft seats sipping champagne or sharing their view from some benighted hotel is a picture of a dead Qandeel Baloch, the Pakistani women’s liberation icon who was murdered by an unrepentant brother. Is there no privacy left?

Why does anyone think it is valid to take a close up of a dead body and shove it on the Internet. Death has become so staple a diet on social platforms that it has almost become blah — here are a dozen grotesque corpses in living colour, enjoy. And there are about 3000 likes.

Death in all its mutilation is not banal. It is psychologically devastating. A Michigan university study showed that blood and gore in films leaves an impact on children. Imagine then how much more it must bruise the mind when it is through the intimacy of the Internet.

Qandeel Baloch.

Qandeel Baloch.

A study in 2014 in Germany and the US produced startling results. People relate to death.

“The research by Rubenking and Lang focuses on things that "are quintessentially gross." They include a closeup of a woman whose torso is cut open, and a man whose throat is slit, and vomit and faeces. The latter had an interesting effect.

The participants didn't have as much trouble dealing with either of those, unless a human "does something disgusting" with the vomit or faeces.

They also looked at "socio-moral disgust," like racism and child abuse, which evoked a slower response, suggesting the participants were trying to think through the situation, not just witness it.

The participants had electrodes attached to various areas of their bodies to measure heart rate and other physiological indicators as they watched a movie on a large screen TV set.

The data from the sensors revealed that the more disgusting the scene, the more involved the participant became.

If the scene showed death, the participants could recall it vividly.”

There are people out there so ghoulish that they have rerun video clips of the madman in Nice trampling folks to death with his truck. Curiosity is acceptable but this kind of morbid fascination is worrying.

And the worry is morphed into discomfort because it is parcelled to you. And you are scrolling mindlessly and it suddenly appears.

Since Facebook has a limited capacity of stopping anyone and hasn’t even yet given a cop-out to the ‘like’ option we have to singularly fight to get our sanity back. They do have a full staff working on sanitising the horrific but it isn’t easy.

Insider, J Lynn has this to say about blocking the the stuff which offends:

“Imagine going to work every day and at the start of your day, with your first cup of coffee, you sit down to glance at beheadings, children in the process of being raped, human bodies in various stages of decomposition, the living and dead results of domestic violence, hanging bodies of 10 year old boys accused of being gay, real-life snuff films and bloody dog fighting rings and their subsequent results. Can you think up a human horror? I’ve probably seen it or a picture or video of something very similar. It’s fair to say that some of the people who work around me do not fare so well. Often they end up suffering from the endless barrage of horror they witness 8 to 12 hours per day. Did I share that *most* of these people make around a dollar per hour to do this job? That’s the truth.”

I do not want to have 3255 ‘friends’ because no, it doesn’t make me feel nice and fuzzy. Because the problem is these friends. They are the ones who manage to bypass the safety walls because they arbitrarily post the ugly and catapult it into the ether and by the time the Facebook sentinels track it the damn thing has already gone to thousands.

After you have seen it what difference does it make whether you hide it or delete it, the picture is ingrained in your mind. A few folks have started showing the decency of a black screen with a warning of graphic content. Others should follow.

And as I begin to whittle down my so called collection of ‘friends’ anyone sending me a picture which offends, you go to the top of that list...and off it.

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Updated Date: Jul 18, 2016 14:40:10 IST

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