Have you seen this video? Why did you watch it? Why did she record it? Why do we share things like this? Could the video actually have helped the boy?
A friend of mine posted the video below on Facebook. It shows a mother mock kicking her son out of the house with his bag packed and with a sign telling passers by she had done so because he voted for Trump in the school election. Our reaction, my reaction and the general facts of the case tell us a lot about the world of torture porn and over-sharing in which we live, and the contradictions associated with feeling superior and humiliating someone.
Why did I Just Watch This?
Having seen the video shared, I sat down to watch it. I knew from reading the title what would happen, and after one minute of it I’d had enough. But I carried on watching. Made to feel about as disgusted as I have been by the inversion of maternal duty that the video showed, I couldn’t quite stop myself from watching till the end. It was though I was getting a more powerful form of the catharsis that I might get from Lady Macbeth, but from witnessing the suffering of an actual child.
Quite importantly, I didn’t need to watch it, but I did anyway – I could have read a transcript or just guessed at what happened. I think a lot of us watched it out of a bizarre obsession with suffering. Except this time it’s not an unknown Russian driver getting into a crash or someone slipping up and cracking their teeth on the bar – it’s child abuse (feel free to pull me up on this one, I’m no expert).
Notice, also, that the video above is on an unrelated YouTube channel – I don’t know where the original is, or if it still exists. And, guess what? It’s monetized – as such, some YouTube punk with mirrored sunglasses is making money of the suffering and humiliation of a child, and they make a bit extra the more people are outraged about it and share the video with their friends.
Why Did She Record it?
Why on Earth did the mother record this? Did she think that everyone would take it as a joke or admire her and nothing would happen? Or was she even thinking about it when she was recording and just got out her phone because that’s what we do when something big happens?
I suppose this is another ugly fact of the recent US election, wherein people were whipped up into a frenzy, partly by the media, partly by each other, and began to regard the other side as a genuine enemy, justifying voter fraud, violence and worse. The corollary of this being the desire to seek social proof by publicly (if possible on video and social media) attacking the other side in some way. I’ve heard of people abandoning their friends over their vote – this is the antecedent of the video, wherein the mother felt the need to be seen punishing someone who couldn’t even have voted.
Why Do We Share Things Like This?
What real purpose does sharing material like this serve? Are the people who share videos like this drawing attention to this sort of behaviour, or just engaging in the same game, one meta-level up: ‘look at anti-Trump people, they’re so inhumane’. Meanwhile, the people who share this content are made by our system of social media into torture pornographers.
I don’t know, maybe this is something that people need to see. However, each time this video is watched the boy’s public humiliation becomes more public – though the viewer may be sympathetic – wrenching the youngster against his will into the world of social media warfare.
When you read the comments – people boasting about how they would beat up the mother etc. (much of it hyperbolic, obviously) – I wonder to what extent watching and sharing it a balm for us, helping us to rationalize our own wrongs.
How the Video Actually Helped the Boy
The strange corollary of her recording it is that in doing so she may actually have helped her son. Having recorded it, she, him, their house and street are all on video, proving what happened pretty much incontrovertibly. As such, the relevant authorities are aware of the situation and can check on the boy. That is, rather than have information come to them as heresy or not at all, such as if the mother didn’t record what she did.
In this respect, our distressing obsession with recording and sharing everything online can actually be useful – the fool recording a fight on the subway for their fail channel is also creating a court-admissible record of what happened. This won’t stop the media from selectively editing the footage, but that’s another story.
There are so many contradictory results of stories like this, that it’s hard to tell whether our social media is making us better or worse off – highlighting a crime can make us accessories, while creating a video for the purpose of humiliating someone can actually be a tool against the aggressor. Expect it to get weirder for a lot longer.