Take This Down; This Video Shouldn’t Be on the Internet


Deciding what to display and what not to display at a crash scene, a fire scene or a crime scene involves difficult decisions almost every day that images and video are captured. When a video is prepared from a significantly bad scene, a large amount of images are edited out for news reports because the images show too much suffering, or show identities, or actual severe injuries. While the video scene is being framed during capture, the videographer often can’t see the details that are being captured by a high resolution camera. When it comes to editing, that’s when the shocking images are discovered.

The shocking images are not published in the news. However, the shocking images are often obtained and used by the plaintiff’s law firm in personal injury cases and wrongful death cases. Attorneys request the full unedited video because the shocking video often helps prove the damages experienced by the deceased from the moment the negligent act caused death until the time of the decedent’s death. The damages in this category might include medical expenses, the deceased’s person’s mental and physical pain and suffering, the deceased person’s lost wages, and funeral and burial expenses. Obviously a crash scene video might capture the deceased’s person’s mental and physical pain and suffering. The video may eventually be displayed to a jury in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Often people protest the capture of the video immediately at the scene, or they protest video that is selected for the news following editing. At the Northwest Highway crash on February 16, 2017, a man stood and watched the scene for at least 30 minutes and then berated another news cameraman for capturing the scene with his camera. He stood directly behind the cameraman and heckled the cameraman while he was working. When extrication was complete, he pointed his finger at the cameraman and said “I just watched five people taken out of here, and you’re taking pictures!”

Images evoke controversy. Pictures evoke controversy. Video evokes controversy. A variety of perspectives are involved — developed from life’s past experiences, or who is currently involved in the tragedy that is known by the viewer, or who the viewer might connect to emotionally somehow in the witnessed scenario.

Last year Facebook caused a controversy regarding the June 8, 1972 picture by Nick Ut showing Kim Phuc running after a napalm attack in the Vietnam War. When ministers in the Norwegian government shared the famous Nick Ut photo on their Facebook pages, including the Facebook page of prime minister Erna Solberg from the Conservative Party (Høyre), the photo was deleted by Facebook for violating a policy regarding nudity.

Facebook was widely criticized by media companies around the world for censoring the photograph.

Facebook is more than just a site where people share photos of their children or pets. It has become a crucial way in which hundreds of millions of people get information about the world around them.

And the tension between those two things is becoming difficult to ignore.

The social network’s size and influence—particularly for younger users who increasingly get their news there—means it plays a huge role in determining what people see or read about the world around them.

In effect, it has taken over the role that newspaper editors used to play in deciding what photos to show and which headlines to include. And it wants to host more and more of the world’s media content through partnerships like Instant Articles and Facebook Live.

The problem is that Facebook isn’t driven by the kind of news judgement or journalistic principles by which most newspapers and other traditional media outlets are driven. So far, it refuses to admit that it has any such responsibilities.

Because it sees itself as mostly a place where people share photos with their friends, Facebook removes violent or disturbing images as part of its “community standards.” And what if those images are newsworthy? In most cases, the site’s desire to maintain a friendly and non-threatening atmosphere takes precedence.

Investigative journalist Eliot Higgins called out the social network in 2014 for removing crucial details about the Syrian government’s attacks on its own people, by deleting pages posted by rebel groups.

There’s an assumption when reading a newspaper that the editors in charge are interested in informing people about what’s happening in the world, even if that information is disturbing or offensive to some. But there’s no such assumption with Facebook because it denies that it is a media entity or that it has any duty to inform.

— Matthew Ingram, Fortune magazine

In September, 2016, a Norway newspaper published an open letter to Zuckerberg after the banning of “Napalm Girl”, the Pulitzer Prize-winning documentary photograph showing the nine-year-old girl running naked with burn injuries during the Vietnam war era.

Dear Facebook,

“First you create rules that don’t distinguish between child pornography and famous war photographs. Then you practice these rules without allowing space for good judgement,” Hansen wrote. “Finally you even censor criticism against and a discussion about the decision – and you punish the person who dares to voice criticism.”

— Aftenposten Editor-in-Chief Espen Egil Hansen

As a reaction to the letter, Facebook reconsidered its opinion on this picture and republished it, recognizing “the history and global importance of this image in documenting a particular moment in time”

Facebook Response

In this case, we recognize the history and global importance of this image in documenting a particular moment in time. Because of its status as an iconic image of historical importance, the value of permitting sharing outweighs the value of protecting the community by removal …

— Facebook

Last week The Cardinal published video that showed a grieving mother attempting to get near the crashed Mercedes Benz her son was driving in excess of 100 mph. The grief is agonizing to any who watched the video, and a few people expressed their opinion that the video should be taken down. It was not taken down because the scene is significant to the tragic incident.

The crash is one of the worst in history for the area. It involved extremely reckless driving; the death of Arlington Heights family members 52-year-old Kevin Crawford, 50-year-old Anita Crawford, 20-year-old Kirsten Crawford; the death of the offending driver, Piotr Rog; and the life-threatening injuries to Rog’s passenger. The crash also involved a failure of laws and the justice system to keep a repeat violator and risky driver off the road.

The crash, and videos related to the crash, evoke a lot of emotions for all of us — from anger toward the driver and the laws and the court system that failed to keep him off the road, to empathy for the victims and the families of the victims killed, to empathy for Piotr Rog’s mother.

The thought provoking images (by the way, not intending to imply that the images are worthy of a Pulitzer Prize like Nick Ut’s photo) are very important documentation related to the crash. But the images also divided people. Some found it offensive, and an invasion of privacy in a time of grief for the offender’s mother — even though she injected herself into the scene by passing a police perimeter, and shoving a police officer. But she is excused because of her extreme grief, and she should be given some leeway. The police were professional and responded to her kindly — that is also important documentation.

Others were motivated by their angry response to her son’s irresponsible and reckless driving, and speculated on her parenting and declared she had enabled her son’s behavior. Some of the reactions probably go too far, but perhaps their reactions are also excusable because of their anger regarding the senseless death of three family members.

Piotr Rog’s mother was overwhelmed with two of a parent’s worst nightmares — losing a child and having a child do something horrific.

But the end result didn’t happen as some random accident. The woman’s son had 10 serious traffic violations and multiple license suspensions. He also drove a Mercedes Benz, and according to his Facebook page was “self-employed” which has a lot of people wondering how a 21-year-old has the financial resources to drive a Mercedes Benz while self-employed, and also while being hindered by multiple driver’s license suspensions. The situation raises multiple red flags.

For those that say the video shows no empathy for the mother. You are wrong. The video actually invokes empathy for the mother. People on the scene that witnessed her arrival had chills run down their spines. The public deserves to witness this if they choose to gain comprehension of this terrible tragedy. Most people’s hearts are broken for the mother after seeing that video. However, some viewers have so much anger regarding the death of the three Arlington Heights family members, they claim Piotr’s mother’s grief should be directed toward the three innocent family members. In the heat of the moment, that’s understandable too.

The bottom line message of the mother’s grief? To all the sons that drive fast cars recklessly or even motorcycles recklessly — and that’s a significant number — don’t do this to your mother.

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