We are torn by the recent images of Muammar Gaddafi’s death. Perhaps we might not feel this, were we Libyan, and had first hand experiences of the horrors Gaddafi exercised on his all too suspecting citizenry. Yet…we are not Libyan; thankfully we have no direct knowledge of his megalomania, his methods of torture and international duplicity.
So we default to behaviour that has stood us in good stead for a long time: decorum, decency, privacy and sensitivity. In these times of instant media (which is almost wholly a good development), images can race around the planet in literally seconds – and can be broadcast, taken from an individual’s ownership, on national media only seconds later. This does not make it right.
There is a privacy in the death of another that we would do well to remember, whatever their crime. Are we not haunted enough by the images of Ceauşescu and his wife, seconds after their execution by firing squad? Did no stirrings of humanity reveal themselves in us, as we witnessed Saddam’s medical examination, knowing full well he was heading to a State Trial from which he would not return. Perhaps the latter was justified…The images of the killing of Gaddafi are amongst the most brutal and shocking ever shown on western media. Their publication has not been without controversy: both the BBC and the UK national press have had bulletin boards with hundreds of complaints. There is a widespread feeling of uncertainty: we wanted him removed, we sanctioned our representatives to achieve this end – we didn’t expect to see the result broadcast around the world, of a terrified, ashen old man covered in blood, seconds before his death. In the internet world of instant publicity, let us not abandon our ability to be shocked, even from those who deserve no pity from us.