Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Repeat, ch-ch, Repeat, ch-ch, Repeat, ch-ch, Repeat.....

Last night I sat here in my den, reading a book, minding my own business.

In the background, the TV was on. I glanced up at the screen and put my book down to look at the screen. It was Nancy Grace, a media figure who ordinarily annoys me but the story caught my attention.

The story involved two minimum wage employees who were caught on surveillance tape in a nursing home, beating helpless residents. In one case, a 50-year-old autistic woman was being beaten with a shoe. In yet another, the screen showed tape of a bedridden man being repeatedly hit and punched as he lay helpless.

That was appalling in and of itself.. but it would also be another topic.

Where I am going with this is that the show continually looped a video of these two events, on a 15-second basis. It repeated at the minimum twenty times. Again and again, my television screen was filled with these two images.

Perhaps it would appear on the surface that the purpose was to make people angry, to cause outrage.

It actually has the potential of the opposite effect: desensitization.

This is a method used in training sessions for people who are first responders, people who must see these kinds of horrible things in order to do their jobs. It's done in the military. It's done when treating people for PTSD.

It's based on the premise that the more we see something, the less we will react to it.

Now that thought scared the heck out of me since I've noticed most of the news channels do this very same thing. They will loop a video endlessly for the entire duration of the coverage. Usually a ten-second clip of video will be repeated, repeated, repeated, repeated.

Conspiracy theory? Maybe. I must admit I thought rather seriously about it during the day though.



KC said...

Interesting. Yes, why do they do that? I can't imagine densensitization is a conscious goal- if anything, maybe an overdramatization- milking a short clip because that's all they have for as long as possible.

Whatever the reasoning, it's not for noble reasons, I'm sure.

Lucia said...

Desensitization is a really frightening thing, when it's done with words or images. There are things we simply should not be familiar and comfortable with. Desensitization is usually the first step in genocide.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I think the media has a field day with dreadful events because sensationalism gets attention- and ratings.

Strangely, I seem to be immune to that kind of conditioning. When I first saw the 9-11 tapes right after the event, I was absolutely aghast. By now, I have probably seen the same video at least 100 times more, and it still has the same electric effect on me, even without the initial astonishment of it.

Maybe some things are so hideous that even repetition cannot dull the shock.

And the other topic here, nursing homes -- it's a crying disgrace how patients are treated in them, and in respite care centers. It seems that for every helpless being, there is another being willing and eager to inflict pain on him or her.

I think a person's merit should be determined by how he treats those who cannot defend themselves when no one is watching.

Sarah said...

I think you're absolutely right that the looping has a desensitizing effect, though I agree with kc that desensitization isn't the intent of the producers.

they just want to keep viewers watching.

painted maypole said...

if I had to guess, I would put forth that perhaps the news channels show the same thing over and over again because they know that people don't just sit and watch their show - new viewers are clicking in all the time, so they feel they need to keep showing the same thing.

After 9-11 there were many incidences where children thought it kept happening, or that hundreds of planes had flown into buildings. They didn't understand that it was being replayed.

mitzh said...

That also made me wonder why do they do that. And whatever the reason behind it, surely it isn't helping the viewer.

And also if they keep repeating such violence or any incident for that matter, is it because society becomes more insensitive of the world around them?

Bob said...

I kinda doubt that desensitization is their goal, I expect the opposite is true - they pick the goriest part and replay it as an attempt to hold your attention (the rubber-neck syndrome, no one can keep themselves from staring at the wreck as they drive by it.). Which is why I don't watch TV news, its all bad, all gore. I listen to NPR or read the newspaper for my news. NPR will follow a story about Iraq with a story about the residents of Tennesee & Kentucky turn over 100 miles of state highway into one continuous yard sale every year. (or something like that). News isn't by definition something bad that happened today.

Christine said...

this is horrible on all levels!

Unknown said...

Well, howabout in Thailand? Seems that with the TV and press, the desistization process starts at birth!

flutter said...

I don't think it's desensitization, rather it is about ratings. Shocking imagery nets huge ratings. Ratings equal money.

Disgusting, but true.

Julie Pippert said...

1. They know no other way to illustrate their point other than to repeat the same footage as they deconstruct.

2. Sensationalism. They are hoping they "impact" (God help me with that word!!!) without crossing the line to loss of "impact" which those of us with BIGGER vocabularies call desensitization.

What was Nancy Grace's angle??

Girlplustwo said...

i've never thought of it as desensitization but that is very interesting. i suppose i've chalked it up to a lack of creativity...but it's true, you see it enough and you stop finding the horror in it.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I've noticed that when news channel repeat videos over and over, eventually I just get frustrated and want to watch the newscaster. The repetition kills the effect.

You'd think they'd be aware of this though.

River said...

I agree with painted maypole that the channels keep looping so that new viewers tuning in see it. But I disagree with Jen, no matter how many times I see this kind of thing I always see the horror. These elderly helpless people are the ones who raised and nurtured us, in turn we ourselves will be elderly and helpless. Is this how we would wish to be treated? If the one doing the beating saw her own mother being mistreated in this fashion what would her reaction be? This subject brings up very strong feelings in me.

Snoskred said...

They love to have video to show. It's all about the footage for tv news networks. Often if they don't have it, an event will be less reported.

A good example is a plane crash in Africa where they don't have any footage and it is difficult to get footage VS a plane crash in the US where they do have footage or can at least get footage of the crash site easily - they will play that US crash footage over and over even if nobody was actually injured or killed and report it as a much bigger story than it really is. You might hear about the plane crash in Africa once or twice, but no footage? It drops quickly from their headlines.

I don't watch any of them anymore, because I just don't have the time or interest. :( I'd rather watch a movie, tv show, or even a home renovation show. For some reason renovating homes is fascinating to me.

Have you ever seen Holmes on Homes? It's a Canadian show. I don't know what channel it's on over there, but he does amazing work. Plus, he has an offsider who's cute to watch. ;)


Snoskred said...

Oh wait, now I get it. I like watching home reno shows for the cute men. :)

Odd that I never made this connection before now!


Anonymous said...

Yes, while I don't think their intent is to desensitize, I believe it does affect the populace as such.

Me, I would have to change the channel. It's a shame because the method of reporting is what makes me have to turn away. Except I probably wouldn't miss anything of substance anyway.

Cecilieaux Bois de Murier said...

Current comment: turn off the TV.

Liv said...

First, I hate Nancy Grace. She makes me want to gouge my eyes out and cut off my ears. Second, I think it is the media and governments dual agenda to have us see and believe what they want us to see--no matter how many times they have to pound us with it.

Anonymous said...

Broadcast news feels like they always have to have a graphic. Whenever they do a story about obesity, they show fat people from the neck down; whenever they do a story about the medicine, they show pharmacists with those little pill counters, separating them with a knife; whenever they do a story about Al Queda, they show "recruits" jumping through a hoop and doing that hand-over-hand thingy.

I don't think they are consciously desensitizing people. I think they just have an odd compulsion to have something- anything- on the screen at all times.

QT said...

Chani - as a person who goes out of my way to avoid graphic violence (movies, etc - it gives me horrible nightmares) I couldn't agree with you more about the effect. I don't know about the intent, however - I think it may be unintentional.

In a "new media" class in college, I remember a study we read about. The chemicals released into the brain while watching violence provide a sort of a "rush". After seeing the same level of violence repeatedly, study participants no longer had the same chemical release, and accordingly reported not having a reaction to the film they were watching.

Increasing the graphic nature of the violence was the only way to duplicate the initial rush the subjects experienced.

blooming desertpea said...

I think the media has become downright pathetic. They run out of ideas and then they do something like that. I'm still put off by the idea that they need to show video clips at all, some are really not necessary to get the picture (pun intended). There are too much visuals nowadays and that DOES have a negative influence on kids and youth - especially regarding violence.

LittlePea said...

I don't know if desensitization is the goal. But you're right, that is the outcome. Come to think of it reporting the news doesn't seem to be the goal anymore either. Shock value and entertainment always trumps the real story. The repetition of the same story over and over is what starts to irritate me after a while.

Open Grove Claudia said...

I think it does cause desensitization but more than anything it can create real anxiety in people who aren't involved - that secondary PTSD thing. I hate television.