“The images of others are always selective. They often only serve to confirm the images that one has of oneself”.
This was the question posed to our class today, in relation to television images of people in humanitarian crisis situations. Think of the images we see on our TVs of the starving child in Ethiopia or the fields full of dead animals in drought-affected Somalia. These images are ingrained in our memory and every time we think of certain countries these images come to mind.
And not in a good way.
A media image of a young child in drought affected Somalia
If you search “famine somalia” into google, you will find hundreds of images similar to the one above. Images of the starving child. Images of what appears to be helpless people, in a helpless society. Surely a wrong and unfair portrayal of a nation.
Is it ethical to show a picture of a dying child, even if showing that image could generate hundreds of thousands of euro in donor funds? Would it be better to show a healthy and happy child who has already benefitted from funds raised? If the general public got used to seeing countries that are plagued year in year out by ongoing conflict or climate-related disasters, in a different, better light, would they still donate their precious pennies to the cause?
When watching a fundraising campaign on TV what images encourage people to donate money? Do we like to relate to the images, thinking to ourselves, “Wow that could be me” or do we prefer to see people who appear to be living in a different world to us who we like to think we can help?
Would a more upbeat image we can relate to be as effective?
Images for these fundraising campaigns are specifically chosen for their shock factor. The accompanying stories are sensationalized. What will shock the viewer into donating now? An image that will stay in their mind all day and haunt them. That’s what.
By constantly churning out images of “the starving child”, are NGOs and the Media doing more harm than good? Are they wrongly portraying countries and their people as beggars who can’t help themselves, scaring away potential investors who could have greatly helped the local economy.
By releasing these, somewhat unethical images, NGOs are putting these humanitarian crisis in the media spot light. They are raising awareness worldwide and are, most importantly, raising much needed funds to help buy food, clean water and shelter for those in need. But in doing all this, are they REALLY HELPING?? Or, are they doing more harm than good.
Are they doing the right kinda wrong…?
If so, Can we offer an effective alternative that isn’t as harmful?
Any ideas welcome!!