Now it’s the BBC’s turn to debate the topic. First the pro…
While we might question what kind of person would want to watch such a gruesome spectacle, I suggest there are reasons why we should at least consider making the footage available to the public. Steve Irwin was a well-known public figure, whose popular TV shows regularly drew large audiences.
His death occurred while he was in the process of filming another documentary – hence the existence of the footage in question. The life and death of a public figure are – naturally – of public interest. This is particularly the case when a person is well-known because of the risks he takes.
Up till now we have witnessed Irwin sporting with crocodiles, poisonous snakes and tarantulas, always emerging unscathed and as lively as ever. The footage of Irwin’s final film can in itself be regarded as a necessary part of our education: these animals are dangerous, and fooling around with them can be deadly.
And now the con…
Even if his entourage gives the green light and the tape is released – and many believe this last event will inevitably happen – there remains a question of personal morality. Should you, the viewer, watch the footage?
The answer depends on your motives. Are you a marine biologist or ethologist (someone who studies animal behaviour) eager to understand the defensive behaviour of a frightened stingray? Are you a cardiologist or toxicologist interested in aspects of the injury itself?
Before watching the footage, we should ask ourselves: why do I want to watch this? I suspect many people would answer “for entertainment” or “out of curiosity”.
Is there not something discomforting about these answers? Do they not reflect a morbid desire to witness a fatal tragedy? Sometimes our instinctive “yuk” response to an event or suggestion is not based on reason but on deep-rooted prejudice or ignorance.
This time, the “yuk” is more firmly grounded. It is a mistake to say that watching the clip in private would harm no one, as the event has already occurred.
It may well harm the watcher, whose humanity and moral sensibility will suffer. Irwin’s passion for nature and his exuberance leapt out of the screen. Let that memory remain, and let the footage of his pierced heart disappear with the stingray into the depths of the ocean.
One of the BBC commenters put it best when they said: “Irwin is a public figure but not public property”.
TOF to Elessarion.