Sacred Disorder | Cliff Bostock's blog – 'Finally, I came to regard as sacred the disorder of my mind' (Rimbaud)

Regarding (obliviousness to) the pain of others

The video below is the latest bit of breathtaking vulgarity from Geraldo Rivera and friends at Fox News. I’m not referring just to the image of model Rusiana Korshunova’s partially uncovered cadaver, on which the Fox camera lingers obscenely by peering under a police vehicle with a telephoto lens. The 20-year-old “supermodel” died after falling (or jumping) from the ninth floor of a Manhattan building.

The image of the shattered body is made more jarring by its contrast to runway shots of the beautiful young woman in motion, while Geraldo and a team of “experts” blather mindlessly about whether the death was murder, an accident or suicide. There is a lot of prattle about how women usually take poison or employ some other discreet means of offing themselves. Indeed, nobody present can recall a woman leaping to her death before — not even a supermodel whose life is spent exhibiting herself before the camera. Someone else informs us that while a model’s life may look glamorous, it’s really a lonely, lonely existence.

Fox has since apologized for airing the image, blaming it on a “producer error,” but I think the piece should be enshrined as performance art. It reminds me of Susan Sontag’s little book, “Regarding the Pain of Others,” published in 2003. In the book, she revises some of the opinions of her earlier classic, “On Photography,” in which she argued that photographs, even those of war, inure us to the pain of reality. In the more recent book she recants the view, holding the photograph to a less expansive expectation, but paradoxically granting it more power:

That we are not totally transformed, that we can turn away, turn the page, switch the channel, does not impugn the ethical values of an assault by images. It is not a defect that we are not seared, that we do not suffer enough, when we see these images. Neither is the photograph supposed to repair our ignorance about the history and cause of the suffering it picks out and frames. Such images cannot be more than an invitation to pay attention, to reflect, to learn, to examine the rationalizations for mass suffering offered by established powers.

Yes, but we need only watch this video to see how much that last sentence actually asks of our tastemakers and pundits. It is precisely the avoidance of what the sentence asks that you hear in the prattle of Geraldo and friends. Confronted with this contrast of the beautiful body and the battered cadaver, all they can do is try to explain it away in a cliche-ridden conversation that at no point looks directly at the image of suffering or beyond the rationalizations offered by “experts.” Sontag might forgive them their wish to look away, but I doubt she’d congratulate them for not looking at all.

The image also reminds me, as it has others, of Fox’s inevitable hypocrisy. Of course, the network has no problem honoring the Bush administration’s insistence that the coffins of soldiers not be photographed out of “deference to the families” — as if a photo of six coffins points to any one family. What the administration is trying to do is circumvent the potential of the photographs to cause us “to pay attention, to reflect, to learn, to examine the rationalizations for mass suffering offered by established powers.”

Finally, recall that Sontag’s own dying four years ago was photographed by her partner, Annie Liebovitz, who exhibited photos of her cadaver last year. We recently learned from her son, David Rieff, that Sontag faced death with abject terror, never coming to anything like acceptance of it. Perhaps Sontag’s choice to bequeath images of her own suffering to public view was an attempt to move us toward acceptance of our own fate.

more about “RedLasso – Shame on FOX for showing v…“, posted with vodpod

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