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Andres Aullet

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Kids as collateral damage: why are we insensitive to it?

(this question was inspired by Phillip McKay's debate about the death of a jehovah's witness)


I love life. And I have always been bothered by unfairness.

Every day there are stories of struggle for life, of sudden and unfair death, and as humans we deeply empathize and make ours the sadness, the rage, the despair. There is a very visceral feeling that something is wrong.

Thousands and thousands followed closely when Terri Schiavo was scheduled to be disconnected from her artificial life-support. Millions were devastated by the deaths at Columbine and Virginia Tech. Hundreds of millions were shocked by the lives lost on september 11, 2011.

Now, I would ask you to do an exercise: think about the rage, sadness, despair that these deaths make you feel, and turn your attention to Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya. Think about a child that is killed there as collateral damage in the war on terror. Then multiply that rage/sadness/despair a few hundred times, or a few thousand times.

In the back of our minds we all know that these children are dying, and yet very seldom do we hear people mourning these deaths and voicing their sadness and rage at this injustice. People in the military considers these deaths inevitable as if those kids were "disposable" individuals.

In the case of the military involved, my guess is that by removing the direct person to person interaction (for example, by remotely operating an unmanned plane from Nevada), the moral weight of causing collateral damage is greatly reduced.

As for us spectators, my hypothesis is that media coverage is the key. Our brains remember what is repeated to them often. And once memories have formed, something that we can recall easier is erroneously considered more probable and more relevant.

Should media give the same amount of air time, print space or web coverage to each of these kids as it did to Terri Schiavo?

What does it say about us as a society when we accept this disproportionate coverage as normal?

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