Disaster Porn Is The New Thing People Get Off To

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The coverage is non-stop. A reporter is at the scene while another is at the reunion check-point for parents and students. The two news anchors are filling time in-between field reports by regurgitating facts they then claim they “aren’t comfortable announcing until facts have been confirmed by the necessary authorities”. As students begin exiting busses and attempt to rejoin their terrified parents the field reporter sticks a microphone in their faces, asking what they heard or saw or felt. Every answer is the same and, unfortunately, are answers we’ve grown to expect. The student heard shots and then shouting. The student was petrified and their classmates were crying and they didn’t know what was going on.

The narrative hasn’t changed, and neither has our drastic need for its non-stop consumption.

We’re so desperate to feel what victims of disasters feel we’ve lost all sense of human decency. We’re losing our humanity in some vain attempt to feel human. Emily Godbey, a professor at Albright College, explains, writing, “We’re able to experience the existential dilemma of human lives — that we know we’re going to die. But if we’re watching it and not in it, there’s no real risk, and in a way you get to deny that you’re not dying…and it’s a moment of relief.”

So photographers wait feverishly outside emergency room doors to snap pictures of gurneys and the bodies they carry. Crying victims, still in shock, are asked impeding questions moments after they’ve survived a life-altering situation. We watch interviews with friends and neighbors and second cousins once removed, hoping to better understand what victims, and perpetrators, felt.

Eric C. Wilson, a Wake Forest University English Professor and author of Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck: Why We Can’t Look Away, writes, “we never feel more alive than in times of distress, danger, and calamity”. He goes on to explain that “our morbid curiosity has an evolutionary function: being well-informed about dangers and potential dangers helps us survive.” However, Wilson also explains that we can undergo a “divine experience” by witnessing the despair and anguish of others. In other words, we’ve sensed something celestial amidst our mortal existence, and we want more. We can surpass our current reality by experiencing the almost unrealistic reality of others. We can imagine the unimaginable because it’s right there, being re-played for us by CNN and NBC and Fox News. Cable News Networks have become our PornHubs and YouPorn and PornMD, delivering 24 hour tantalization.

We’ve had Columbine and Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook, numbing our senses and establishing a new sense of reality. We’ve come to expect a certain level of carnage and coverage now. Like porn, what was once unrealistic fantasy is now a jaded representation of expected reality. Godbey goes on to explain that, “part of what happens is that as industrialist spreads, people get these very routine lives. The unexpected, no matter what it is, brings a certain kind of excitement to people’s lives…when they’ve been making widgets in a factory.”

We want a break from our missionary style normality. Only one person died? That’s a five minute blow job. Six people died? Whoa, now we’re teetering on the verge of anal. So we consume and debate and insert our own brand of morality, packaged in a political stance that gives us a sense of being one-step removed from the underlying problem. It’s guns, no it’s mental health, no it’s lack of guns, no it’s violent video games. Just. Like. Porn. It’s the absence of morality, no it’s past sexual abuse, no it’s the degradation of women, no it’s unbridled feminism.

We’ve exchanged one brand of animalistic necessity for another, only to condemn it publicly. We’ll tune in and tweet on and endlessly add to the demand for more more more, all while claiming it’s disgusting. It’s disgraceful. It’s not for us. We shout “I would rather kill myself than have that shooter as my son”, just like we do for every woman who spreads her legs and gets paid. Yet we’re endlessly reading through manifestos and watching the before-shootout youtube video, just like we’re downloading Belle Knox’s latest video and watching a teen mom take it in the backdoor.

There are porn stars because our society demands sex. Men and women aren’t making us consume their videotaped sexual activity. We crave it. Perhaps we have school shooters because our society demands violence and, unfortunately, we’ve started to crave it.

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