June 10, 2004  
Volume 98, Issue 04  

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Desensitization removes sympathy

Lorraine Forster
Campus Life Editor

It seems that lately not a day passes without the front pages containing some mention of terrorism, whether it’s carried out by al-Qaeda, Iraqis or Americans. With the constant barrage of disheartening stories about the abuse of soldiers and civilians alike, it is easy to become immune to the somber feelings that would usually accompany such stories.

Being a media, information and technoculture student I have made my university career through analyzing how the media affects society. As I read the front pages of my daily newspapers I can’t help but make connections between the stories of war and many blockbuster Hollywood hits.

It seems that the atrocities being committed overseas are straight out of the latest action movie, which makes me conclude that this is a chicken and egg situation — did the movies come first or did the war crimes?

Regardless of what came first, I often find myself reading these stories without fully realizing they are real. As I read the tragic news of the beheading of Nick Berg thought to myself “Why am I not more disturbed by this?” I realized it is because I have become desensitized.

While I know I am not the only one who feels desensitized towards these types of tragedies, I can’t help but feel somewhat inhuman for not grieving the abuse of another living being. However, I did not feel as bad upon learning what some of my peers did when they heard about the Berg story.

A friend told me about a party she was at where the host had downloaded the video of the beheading and a group of people watched it numerous times. While watching this video would be disgusting to me under any circumstances, it disturbs me even more that a group of people would use this event as entertainment at a party.

It is this kind of desensitization that allows us to remain so inactive against the war. If we don’t realize that the stories we read in the paper and hear on the news are reality, then we don’t need to sympathize with the victims and try to do something to stop such events from happening again.

Contrary to some of my peers’ beliefs — and despite the fact that my constant exposure to gruesome real-world and cinematic tragedies has left me somewhat unable to deeply grieve for the victims — I think that anyone who has suffered deserves at least a sympathetic thought instead of the laughter of a drunken group at a party.



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