More on the Steve Irwin video debate

The Irwin video: Would you watch it? :

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?

Why watch?

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.

One thought on “More on the Steve Irwin video debate”

  1. Copying and pasteing my reply from a thread below. The reply was pertaining to Jim saying he had a morbid curiosity,but my viewon the Irwin video is here.

    You know, Jim,

    That is not ALWAYS a bad thing. There are some folks whose nature is simply to be curious about these sorts of things when others can’t, and thank God for some of those people or we probably wouldn’t have modern science.

    Let us not forget that it is an innate sense and curiosity for the morbid that gives us some of our best doctors and pathologists, not to mention crime scene technicians, particularily photographers and criminal investigators. Not all of these people went into their line of work simply to “help” people. Many of them realized that they had this weird thing in them and simply decided do something positive with it. Believe it or not, folks, some of them ENJOY their work. So it would take this morbid curiosity in my opinion to continue enjoying your work, and therfore becoming damned good at it.

    The Crime Library recently featured an article on a lady by the name of Frances Glessner Lee which is well worth taking a look at. She is a fascinating character in history with the “morbid curiosity” who wanted to use it to become a crime scene investigator, but at that time, women in that field were almost unheard of. So instead, the lady turned to making miniatures of different crime scene scenarios called nutshell studies, to help train police officers and investigators. The work was painstakingly detailed,and I must clueyou in to the fact that this lady was not entirely doing this to help others. She actually enjoyed it. It’s a great story and I recommend it.

    And let us not forget one of the original macbre ladies of the 20th century, Agatha Christie, whose novels I have enjoyed since I was a teen. It takes a morbid mind, to create a morbid scene. And Agatha was said to have visited many real crime scenes, just as Frances Lee, to get inspiration for her books.

    I will leave it at that, but guys, this is a nice young man who should have lived to be a grandpa and hislife was snuffed out by a freaky thing happening thatno one could have anticipated. He was not the victim of a crime, nor the center of some huge mystery. He was killed in a horrible accident and they KNOW the cause. So I am hoping possibly against hope that they use VERY sound judgement in deciding not to let that tape be viewed. He doesn’t deserve that, nor does his family.


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