Consider, for instance, the war in Syria. And the refugee crisis:
The Guardian, from where I grabbed that photograph, reports:
The full horror of the human tragedy unfolding on the shores of Europe was brought home on Wednesday as images of the lifeless body of a young boy – one of at least 12 Syrians who drowned attempting to reach the Greek island of Kos – encapsulated the extraordinary risks refugees are taking to reach the west.That image haunts me. It should haunt every one of us.
The picture, taken on Wednesday morning, depicted the dark-haired toddler, wearing a bright-red T-shirt and shorts, washed up on a beach, lying face down in the surf not far from Turkey’s fashionable resort town of Bodrum.
Turkish media identified the boy as three-year-old Aylan Kurdi and reported that his five-year-old brother had also met a similar death. Both had reportedly hailed from the northern Syrian town of Kobani, the site of fierce fighting between Islamic state insurgents and Kurdish forces earlier this year.There is something seriously wrong with the world. A world in which here in the US we are fixated on Donald trump's latest theatrics. Nicholas Carr writes:
It’s worth asking, though, what kind of democracy is being promoted. Early digital enthusiasts assumed that the web, by freeing the masses from TV news producers and other media gatekeepers, would engender a deeper national conversation. We the people would take control of the discussion. We’d go online to read position papers, seek out diverse viewpoints and engage in spirited policy debates. The body politic would get fit.Seriously, is it worth calling ourselves the greatest country that the planet has ever known when we pay immensely more attention to Trump than to a grave humanitarian crisis that resulted in the three-year old dead, face down on the beach? WTF!
It was a pretty thought, but it reflected an idealized view both of human nature and of communication media.
Because it simplifies and speeds up communications, the formulaic quality of social media is well suited to the banter that takes place among friends. Clicking a heart symbol may be the perfect way to judge the worth of an Instagrammed selfie (or even a presidential snapshot). But when applied to political speech, the same constraints can be pernicious, inspiring superficiality rather than depth. Political discourse rarely benefits from templates and routines. It becomes most valuable when it involves careful deliberation, an attention to detail and subtle and open-ended critical thought—the kinds of things that social media tends to frustrate rather than promote.As the NY Times notes, people have tweeted and Facebooked about that haunting image of the three-year old dead boy. But, at best, people click "like" and move on to a video of a cat playing the piano. We seem to have lost even the little bit of a common sense and a shared space where we engaged in deeper conversations. What is wrong with us?
That was a toddler! I have no hope that the image will make us collectively think about the four million refugees who are alive ... I give up.
A three-year old.
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