I nearly lost my lunch today. Someone in my Facebook news feed decided it was nice to post a photo of a woman’s body chopped into pieces and neatly arranged beside each other on the ground.
Well, let me tell you, it was not amusing. I didn’t lose my lunch after all, although I came close, but I lost my temper, and I left the poster a piece of my mind.
In short, I told her to take it down as it was nauseating and dark and evil and unconscionable.
I’m not the only one revolted by this newfound appetite some people have for death images. The complaints on and off air have been getting louder, with even the Minister of National Security using a Nationwide news interview yesterday to appeal to people to stop sharing fake pictures on social media.
There are three possible sources of these photos that are circulating chiefly on Facebook and WhatsApp.
- The killer himself or herself.
- A police officer on the crime scene
- A member of the public
Killer with a Camera?
Let’s say it is the killer. Far-fetched? Not if you watch cop shows or read the studies I shared in this post.
I find it disturbing that someone could stand over a person cut to pieces and calmly take a photo then go and post that on social media. I don’t get that kind of sadism. Am I the only one who has wondered who could be holding that camera?
When civilians are posting photos of bodies they discover and voice notes which indicate they know much more than the police about a murder or can say where a missing girl is found before reporting it to the police, it begs common sense for the police to summon these persons and interrogate them. As long as it doesn’t breach the rights of the person, I can see no harm if the police trace individuals who post such updates, summon them and find out where and when such photos were taken, what time they arrived on the scene and what they saw. This kind of collaboration could help to find any connection with the killer.
Inside the interrogation room, the police should be able to check cameras and phones to see the date and time said photos were taken.
If it can be proven that the image was sent to that person, the police should follow the Fcebook Shares trail until they find that person.
There are other recent activities I noticed on WhatsApp that could warrant some attention from the police as well. Let me say first though that the channel could be a useful tool which citizens are using to identify criminals, but only if it’s being done responsibly.
People are sending around photos of persons they deem “rapists” and abductors” without providing any evidence. This is a dangerous practice. Anyone –someone I offend or someone who has a vendetta against me — could very well decide to tarnish my reputation on social media by posting my photo and things about me that are not true. With the society in an angry mood over the recent spate of murders involving women and young girls, that “suspect” could find himself lynched by an angry mob jungle justice style, no questions asked.
The public should be warned and educated about the dangers of this and using the App to help rather than harm.
Facebook, the owners of WhatsApp should also monitor the spread of fake news which came under the spotlight during the American election campaign, and continues to thrive on WhatsApp spreading conspiracy theories about people. This kind of culture can only serve to incite more violence and contribute to the growing crime problem in Jamaica.
Police Sharing Crime Scenes
My reason for pointing fingers at the police as a possible poster lies in previous media reports about officers being chided by the Police Commissioner for sharing crime scene photos on social media. It’s a practice the American police have had issues with as well.
One such notorious offense occurred in 2006 (before Facebook’s preeminence). As was reported in US media, photos of an 18-year-old woman killed in a car accident went viral after two highway patrolmen shared them via email. The young woman’s family suffered years of torment from morbid pranksters who spread the photos, posted them on a MySpace memorial page and sent emails that either contained the photos or derogatory comments.
The Los Angeles Times reported that four staff members were fired and three disciplined at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach, Calif. after photos of a victim with multiple stab wounds showed up on Facebook — despite federal laws and growing zero-tolerance hospital policies.
In the United States, the practice evoked the public’s wrath and calls for such postings by law enforcement officers and hospital emergency workers to be made a felony.
With no law to punish those public servants who choose to join the crime paparazzi here in Jamaica, it’s hard to bring those who practice the act to justice. But the cries from citizens who are sickened by the practice will no doubt get louder.
In the image I saw today, the photo shows no one else at the scene. Now, I don’t know if this could be based on the angle the photo was taken from, but this photograph appeared to be taken from close range. I just hope it didn’t come from one of our law officers.
Civilians on Crime Scenes
It would come as no surprise to learn that this photo was taken by a member of the public who was on the scene.This is a typical, almost cultural scenario in Jamaica.
Recently, someone was shot by gunmen in my area. After about half hour I heard activity and voices outside my gate. When I went outside, I saw that a crowd had gathered in the vicinity where the man had been shot.
Curiosity got the better of me and I went to a nearby shop where some officers were standing. I enquired who had been killed. The lady who turned out to be an officer in plain clothes told me she did not know. People had gathered on the periphery on the street where the man was killed.
I stood there in the crowd for a while and was there for about half an hour before an officer came over and told us to disperse as they were going to cordon off the area with police tape. This to me was a redundant decision taken too late as the area surrounding the scene where people stood would have been contaminated, and any possible clues disposed of by the shooters already trampled on.
But back to this nauseating photo that nearly made me lose my lunch earlier. All I can say is this shooting and then sharing of homicide scene photos by crime scene paparazzi is a vile practice.
I understand it goes by the name grief porn, which is defined as hyper-attentive, intrusive, and voyeuristic activity engaged in by people when there is a disaster.
The practice did not originate in Jamaica. Most of us would recall the early presentations that we oohed and aahed over when that woman fell into the tiger’s lair at the zoo and was speedily snatched by the animal, never to be seen again, or most recently the famous shooting of that baboon trying to drown a small boy who had fallen into his bathing pool. The one that left me shell-shocked by far though was a stomach turning, horrifying gaslighting video showing a Pakistani lady who supposedly had converted to Christianity that someone thought I’d want to see. I said that left me shell-shocked? How can I get the vision out of my mind of the charred bodies of that family (children included) whose house was allegedly razed by a family member in Spanish Town last year. It was a close up that left me imagining the deceased’s torturous final moments. It left me traumatised and depressed.
So it seems to me we are feeding a morbid and unhealthy fascination with death and suffering in this country. The way I see people falling over themselves to shoot a video or photo of victims at an accident scene while someone bleeds out unassisted is inhumane. It sort of reminds me of same vultures congregating around roadkill and fighting for the first pick at the entrails.
It’s an underbelly of Jamaica that makes me want to gag, and one must be careful not to get caught up in it’s demonic and barbaric tentacles.Having to view it in my newsfeed as I did today leaves me feeling tainted.
Feeding a Killer’s Ego
I can’t help but wonder whether the sharing of photos of these murdered women is not stroking the ego of her killer somewhere and egging him on to go after another defenseless woman or girl. Recently, the police expressed similar sentiments about their reservations in sharing too much crime data. These monsters get their rocks off people’s grief and suffering. As shared in this post What We Must Start to Stop Jamaican Femicide (See Census Idea) , the psychodynamic elements of the perpetrators of these mutilations must become a subject for analysis as one of the priorities of the security minister as he prepares to release another raft of crime measures.
Do you really want to be used by this blood-sucking villain?
Ready for Your own Body Shots?
Every time we create and share fake death photos of girls gone missing, reduce human bodies to roadkill, collect crime scenes and accident scenes as though we are collecting tokens, we become a little more inhumane; we traumatise our souls and our psyche; we breed fear and paranoia in the population; we make it more difficult for people in real danger to get help and for the police to solve cases. Finally, collectively we break down the last vestiges of civil society.
Soon it won’t be the chickens but the John crows who will come home to roost. And the worst part is that we may be the twitching mutilated roadkill on pieces of plastic paper whose remains these paparazzi will plaster all over the internet. Is that the last memory you’d want your loved ones to be left with? Is it your job to help further the grief of these people who did you nor the killer any wrong?
Would you want to see your body parts framed on some sick person’s wall? Because that’s kind of what we are doing here, only that the frame on our wall is our social media screens.
One last thing . . .
The Minister of Security has to do more than appeal to people to stop this horrible business of posting homicide crime scene photos and fake photos on social media.
I believe that the force of law and a zero tolerance policy for public servants who are guilty of this must be implemented, and it must have sharp teeth.
I understand that Facebook is quite cooperative and willing to work with law enforcement officers to get these photos down so I would recommend that the Police Commissioner initiate that request to Facebook.
The use of cameras by people at crime scenes should also be banned, even if it means that the police obtain technology to jam any phones in the area of the crime scene until the body has been removed and the crime scene processed.
Anyone who is seen on a crime scene when the police arrive should be arrested.
Sounds harsh? Order must be returned to our communities. It will help the police solve more murders and help us live longer. And I will be happy not to lose my lunch when I check my newsfeed in the near future because of shock and disgust.
What do you think would help stop this crime scene paparazzi behaviour and sharing of such scenes on Facebook and WhatsApp? Do you agree with my recommendations?