Why must we watch the suffering?


The representation of human suffering in the media sparks various reactions. These reactions can range from sympathy to anger. It seems human suffering can be witnessed in almost all forms of media these days. So we come to the question where do we draw the line when showcasing human suffering?

Distant suffering in the media’ focuses on the three questions that human suffering inevitably raises when presented through public communication. What to do, how we relate to others and who it is important to care for. So is the use of showing human suffering in the media to influence us to take action?

Researching this topic I stumbled across the term ‘social suffering’. I thought this was actually a good way to look at human suffering in the media. As a society we are so connected to one another through our media forums. By showing human suffering on TV or through pictures on social media or in art galleries does change the idea of human suffering to ‘social suffering’. When you watch an advertisement on TV about young underprivileged children in Africa you feel that pang of sympathy or guilt. As a society we then feel it is our duty to relieve those from the situation where they are experiencing suffering.

“It reminds us that emotion is a scarce resource and that part of the capacity of news to present the world to us is its capacity to reserve the potential for emotion for some sufferers; to locate others outside our own community of belonging and to place their suffering beyond the remit of our action” (Chouliaraki, 2008).

When any human suffering is presented in the media it provokes controversy. Those that feel it is vital to emphasise a point and those that feel such images or videos should not be shown. I still have not fully reached a decision on where I stand, however I can see points for both sides.


One thing I do understand when presented with an image or video of human suffering one cannot ignore it.
“This is, I argue, an ambiguous and controversial kind of power, for at least one important reason: it is positive power because it brings us closer to human pain and confronts us with the responsibility of ‘what to do’ to improve the life of vulnerable others” (Chouliaraki, 2008).


Chouliaraki, L. 2008,  Distant suffering in the media, viewed 21 April 2015 http://www.lse.ac.uk/media@lse/study/pdf/ChouliarakiLSEPublicLectureDistantSuffering.pdf


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s