Media Morality… Misplaced

I am horrified. CBS has decided to air two hours of never-seen-before graphic footage of the September 11th attacks on Sunday, March 10th, despite objections from several Senators, a prosecutor, and many victims’ family members.

In the New York Times, William Schmidt, the prosecutor who urged CBS to wait another six months before airing the footage argued, “Exposure through media to graphic details can be potentially disruptive to the fragile psychological equilibrium (family members of victims) are so desperately attempting to regain and maintain.”

Yet CBS has decided to go ahead and show it. In fact, CBS cautioned families to, “just be careful with this.” Who are they kidding? Does the media have no conscience whatsoever?

I even objected to the lengthy article in Vanity Fair this month, lauding the two brothers, Jules and Gedeon Naudet, who happened to be filming a documentary on firemen that day, and consequently captured this contentious material. Am I being unreasonable?

Perhaps I am too close to the situation. I lost my best friend (and roommate of five years) in the attacks and I know all too well the “fragile psychological equilibrium” of which Mr. Schmidt speaks. Almost anything these days can be a trigger for me. A restaurant in New York. A song on the radio. A funny story I want to share with her. A new outfit I can’t wait to show her. The smell of chocolate chip cookies.

When I unpacked Stacey’s clothes with her mother last month, I was “re-traumatized.” I remember just kneeling beside a big box of her belongings, finding a strand of her hair and just holding it up, trying to understand how all that could remain of someone who I loved so much could be a single strand of hair at the bottom of a box. Even finding a long-lost pair of my own socks mixed in with hers, and seeing the wrinkles still in her pants rendered me completely non-functional for days, my own personal Hell Week.

Now, I can’t even imagine having to see more gory details on TV. And I know it’ll be unavoidable. Clips are sure to be rebroadcast, filtering in at Shad as I’m running on the treadmill, shown in bars and restaurants when I’m out trying to go on with my life, in magazines and newspapers that I enjoy reading for other features.

Doesn’t the media have some obligation to protect us? Shouldn’t they care about the effect of the program on all the families and friends of lost loved ones? Shouldn’t they be concerned with the trauma that every single person in America experienced and how the new horrendous words and images will plague all of our minds?

I know the media has a responsibility to share information with us, but I think this is going one step too far.