Those Photos

I kept changing my mind about what I was going to write today.  I have a half written blog post I was considering going back to but there’s something that has been so much on my mind I couldn’t not mention it, though I’m still not sure where this blog post is going.

Those photos.

That poor little boy who drowned when his desperate family fled Syria.

I don’t know about outside of the UK but certainly if you live here in the UK you must have seen the heartbreaking photos of that dead child.  They have flooded my Facebook feed.  The Wolf shared one of the front covers with the picture and commented about how that could be Baby Bear (I always denied becoming a parent would change the way I see the world but it does, it really does – the stab of grief you feel at these sorts of events is so much more intense when you imagine it’s your own child).

The thought of one of them floating lifeless in the water is the stuff of nightmares.
Literally.
It was the most terrifying dream I’ve ever had.

Many people applauded the photos.  They have made a difference to public opinion on the refugee crisis (I refuse to use the utterly misleading and loaded term ‘migrant crisis’).  David Cameron – that empathy vacuum of a Prime Minister – has been forced to act despite clearly thinking these refugees were simply lacking in forward planning when they were born in a country that was to become terrifying and war-torn, rather than ensuring they were born to rich toffs in good old Blighty like Cameron and his chums.  But, thanks to those photos the plebs are getting worked up over a ‘crisis of humanity’ so they must be appeased.

I think it’s interesting to contrast the reaction to these photos with the reaction to the photos (and videos) used online, in news broadcasts and on front pages of newspapers after the murders of Alison Parker and Adam Ward.  Many people were outraged by the stills of the victims taken from the video the gunman took and were still more upset by the video (or parts of it) being shown on the news and even auto playing on Facebook.

The different reactions highlight – for me – the dichotomy of the media (and the internet).  Both the photos of the drowned refugee child and the photos and videos of the shooting were shocking and upsetting.  The difference, of course, was in the effect.  The refugee crisis is ongoing.  It’s something people can help with now.  The heart-wrenching pictures of that little boy made a difference and helped people realise what’s at stake and what needs to be done.  There was a good reason to shock people.  The coverage of the shootings, on the other hand, shocked without purpose.  People are already well aware of the issue of gun control in the US.  Showing these images made no difference but simply needlessly upset many people.  On top of that, splashing pictures of the victims around looking terrified and knowing they were about to die seemed incredibly disrespectful to the families of said victims and the less said about the video the better.

The media and – more and more relevantly – the internet can be a powerfully good force.  It can also be massively destructive.  The thought of having to navigate that terrain with the cubs as they get older is exciting and scary in equal measure.  They will have access to all sorts of knowledge and experiences my parents didn’t and I didn’t even have…both good and bad.

There is a myth that autistic people don’t feel empathy.  People are gradually starting to recognise the truth: people with ASD often feel empathy far more keenly than their neurotypical counterparts.  In a previous blog post I already mentioned Tyger’s response to Elsa and Anna’s parents drowning in Frozen.  He clearly put himself entirely into the position of Anna and Elsa and felt keenly their loss.  Recently Tyger was watching some videos on YouTube (YouTube is a friend to many an ASD parent).  I went to the toilet and when I got back Tyger had tears rolling down his cheeks.

I panicked.  What was he watching?  I hadn’t been supervising his viewing content and he obviously had something totally inappropriate playing!  How much would this scar him?  What was it??

It was a video of someone playing a Dora the Explorer game where the player has to administer some basic medical care to a mildly sick and injured Dora.  I asked Tyger what the matter was and he started to recount how he had hurt his leg (he hadn’t done anything to his leg but Dora needed a plaster – band aid for any Americans reading – on her leg).  He empathised with a fictional character having a minor injury so much it made him cry.

So, the photos of that boy left me thinking, ‘that could be one of the cubs.’  But it also left me thinking, ‘soon the cubs will start to see and understand photos like that.’  How much should be kept from them?  How will they cope with news stories and with photos and content they’ll come across on the internet?  I don’t want to shelter them from reality; it’s something they’ll have to deal with regardless and it’s better they are in some way prepared.  And, as the refugee crisis has shown, it’s important for people to face the brutality and tragedy of the world in order to understand and offer help.  But I don’t want to overwhelm them either and there will also always be needlessly upsetting things out there like the way the Bryce Williams news story was covered.

It’s not an immediate concern but one day I’ll have to face it.

On a lighter note, I was right with my last blog post I’m Not Crying…No, Really! in that I didn’t cry on Tyger’s first day of preschool.  For anyone who didn’t read the Facebook update, Tyger – on the other hand – did cry.  However, he didn’t cry when I left him there but when I came to pick him up!  He’s also desperate to go back.

For those who wish to help with the refugee situation you can donate to MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station) here and The Independent has a lot of links listing ways you can help here.

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10 Comments


  1. You have tackled this subject in a really sensitive way and I have to say that when I saw the picture of the little boy washed up on the shore, I couldn't bring myself to open the link as I was afraid of what I would see and learn. It's heart wrenching. I am also seeing a lot of negative/racist comments filling my feed about this 'crisis' and it's awful that people can see such cruel things about other human beings. #sundaystars

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  2. Thank you. This is the first time I've written about something as topical as this and I was really worried about handling it sensitively.

    It's truly vile people can say such awful things about human beings going suffering in this way.

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  3. Great post. I understand why that picture was used – it sold papers at the end of the day, and the feelings it stirred making people want to help was a brilliant outcome. I do find it quite worrying though that young children could easily see this picture, but I guess in today's world, that's just the way it is.
    I don't have children, but I can understand why seeing that picture would be even more upsetting for people who do. I think you handled this topic really well.
    Well done on crying on Tyger's first day! I'm glad he enjoyed it 🙂
    Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes
    Debbie

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  4. The images I've seen this week have been truly heartbreaking. I just can't stop thinking about those poor children as they were a similar age to my boys.
    I try to shelter my children from these types of things as I feel they're too young to understand yet but I know one day I'll have to sit them down and explain why these atrocities go on in the world.
    Congratulations on not crying on the first day of preschool. That's a Mummy win!
    #twinklytuesday

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  5. This is such a heart-wrenching subject, but you have written about it very sensitively. I have read some awful things in my timelines the last few days that made me almost as sad as seeing those pictures.
    I have never sheltered my children from reality. They hear so many things in school and on the streets, often getting the wrong end of the stick altogether, so we have always been very open about any subject they have asked about. It has made for some bizarre conversations over the years but I now have three teenagers who are thirsty for knowledge, are highly opinionated in their views and just love setting the world to rights over dinner.
    Oh, and well done for not crying on the first day 🙂 Thanks for linking up with #sundaystars x

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  6. Thanks. In terms of young children seeing it, it was at least less graphic than some photos used on front pages. A very young child would probably think the poor little boy was just sleeping or playing.

    Thanks for reading.

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  7. It really does hit home when you have children the same sort of age. The thought that it could have been one of my boys still makes my blood run cold.

    Thanks for reading.

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  8. I always try to give the truth (albeit an age appropriate truth) to Tyger when he asks tough questions. It's hard to know what to say for the best sometimes, though.

    Thanks for reading.

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  9. That picture will haunt me forever. I'm happy that it got the reaction it did and people *finally* started to take the situation seriously but I didn't need to see that. Especially not again and again and again on my Facebook feed. Once would have been (more than) enough.

    Sometimes I can't work out if people are wanting to help, by sharing images like that, or if they're jumping on the band-wagon and wanting to be sensationalist. But I guess, it caused something to be done at the end of the day so I guess we have to be grateful for small mercies. Thanks so much for linking up with us #TwinklyTuesday

    Caro | http://www.thetwinklediaries.co.uk

    Reply

  10. I think there can be quite a fine line between photos going viral because the cause is worthwhile so people care and photos going viral because people want to look like they care and want don't want to be left out. If that makes sense.

    Thanks for reading.

    Reply

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