I got that queasy feeling the other day when I read about two brothers who assaulted a man in a crowded restroom at a pro football game. Apparently the victim nudged one of the brothers to let him know of an open urinal, and it set him off.
Seconds later, the 32-year-old victim was knocked unconscious. He was taken to a hospital where he had part of his skull removed to relieve pressure on his brain. He is partially paralyzed and “near death,” according to one report.
That’s sick enough, but here’s what makes it worse.
Someone videotaped the assault and put it on YouTube. A sports website that I look at regularly had a link to the story — and to the video, all nice and underlined so you can’t miss it.
As a parent of three males in their 20s who attend professional sporting events, the thought of “What if that were one of my boys … ?” came to mind fairly quickly. (One of my sons was accosted by a drunk fan at a National Hockey League game, but the clown was so intoxicated his fine motor skills failed him and he was quickly subdued.)
I refuse to watch the football game assault video, but a lot of folks disagree. As of Saturday morning it had been viewed more than 112,000 times, although YouTube may have taken it down by now.
Forget for a moment the issue of whether there was time for someone to intervene instead of videotaping the attack. Maybe it all happened too fast.
What is especially troubling is the availability and popularity of this violent video, and so many others like it. Sure, sometimes a video can lead to an arrest or, conversely, prove excessive force by authorities.
But when hundreds of thousands of people choose to watch acts of violence — real violence, that is — it degrades our culture and chips away at our collective humanity. The concept of desensitization shouldn’t be a surprise at this point.
The absolute sickest examples, of course, are the recent ISIS beheading videos.
Yes, men have perpetrated shocking cruelty on one another for centuries. But now we have technology to ramp it up, and these videotaped executions apparently have been watched millions of times. (YouTube and Twitter removed them, but they are still able to be viewed elsewhere).
I cannot comprehend why any civilized person would want to watch these videos, even if there is any merit to reports of fakery, which I doubt. How can you see that happen to another human being and not be traumatized in some way?
I can’t even look at the still images taken from the videos. It makes me think about what it would be like to be on your knees, hands tied behind your back, knowing you’re about to die that way. And knowing that your death will be used as propaganda or entertainment.
For what it’s worth, I’d like to hear someone justify the personal value of watching these executions. What good can it possibly do for you as a human being? Or if you did watch one of them, and absolutely regret it, I’d like to hear about that as well.