An appetite for snuff
“There are some things that you see, and you can’t unsee them. Know what I mean?” — “8MM”
Ever since WikiLeaks.org released “Collateral Murder” on Monday, the blogosphere has been all over the 2007 decrypted video that appears to show US military Apache helicopters mowing down 12 in Baghdad, among them two Reuters employees, a photojournalist and a driver, and injuring two children in the process. As for what exactly what happened in the video, that remains unclear. The military asserts the video is heavily edited and fails to point out that several of the men on the ground are armed, one with an RPG and another with an AK-47. Liberal bloggers have pronounced it footage of a “slaughter” of lambs. Neocons have declared it “anything but ‘Collateral Murder,’” wondering, “(And who drives their kids into the middle of a war zone anyway?”).
The public reactions range from outrage to reason, but, by and large, what nobody seems interested in addressing is why everyone is so interested in watching it. In fact, the purported conversation around this particular piece of live-action war porn is so hyperbolic, so fraught with haughty indignance and driven by self-appointed experts who, for the most part, know little to nothing of what it’s like to engage in combat or what actually happened that it makes you wonder if the dialogue around it is a masterful bit of misdirection, a convenient veil intended cover up our own collective interest in watching what amounts to a snuff film.
Of course, this isn’t the first video of its kind. Last year, it was all about the Neda video, a snuff video so riveting that it actually won an award. HBO’s “Terror in Mumbai” wouldn’t exist were it not for play-by-play cell phone recordings and surveillance footage of the terrorists carrying out their murderous plan. And it seems like only yesterday that everyone was watching an 11-member assassination team kill a Hamas official (over which Gawker gushed: “It’s like Munich, but real.”).
So, it seems, “Roller Ball Murder” has finally come to pass. In the 21st century, death is entertainment, and the only thing that can whet our appetite is watching people die. After all, where else could we go after we all watched “2 Girls 1 Cup”? Porn is so passe, and snuff is the new, new thing. In the olden days, you had to leave the house to rent “Faces of Death.” These days, snuff is piped into your home 24/7, and if you feel any quiver of self-revulsion at your desire to watch other people dying, you can upload the video to your blog and weigh in with your own admittedly under-informed two-cents on it. That way, you can pretend you’re engaged in, you know, a conversation. It’s not like what you’re in the business of is trading in snuff, right? No. Not you.
The adult movie industry has been doing something like this for years. Did you know you can download videos in which adult performers contract HIV? The results are way slower than what you see when an Apache launches a torrent of rockets into a crowd in the middle of a street. But, hey, that’s different. It’s not like you knew. It’s not like you’d want to see that. Would you?
Even the New Yorker is posting videos of people getting killed. Before you know it, snuff will have jumped the shark. And then what will we watch?