Media coverage today constantly pushes the boundaries of censorship. We are exposed to graphic violence, nude women, and drug use now more than ever. People become gradually desensitized to such media, whether we realize it or not. However, there must still be images and videos that exist outside appropriate bounds. “Beyond the pale” is a phrase that refers to media coverage that exceeds agreed standards of decency. The underlying problem is the subjectivity of what should be considered “decent”. This begs the question: What kind of media really is beyond the pale?
What one person defines as “intolerable”; another says is “bearable”. For example, a dead body sickens certain people while others actively seek out evidence from a gruesome crime scene. Most of us can probably agree on specific parameters that should not be crossed – maybe videos of child abuse, violent sexual abuse of women, or excessive torture rituals. Regardless, people still easily consume real media like this.
Let’s forget the fact that any media coverage can be stomached by at least some people, and instead focus on an all-encompassing agreement of what should be considered beyond the pale for the public’s sake. Witnessing a person’s moment of death should be off-limits. The moment of death inflicts extreme discomfort or revolt and can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. Furthermore, it violates special boundaries of intimacy and respect associated with death. The moment of death is an enigma; no one can truly know its emotional and psychological effects until after the experience. Nevertheless, it will presumably have a detrimental impact on an individual.
Humans are oddly fascinated by many cruel topics in the world of criminology – including serial killers, how to get away with murder, or medieval torture techniques. Media today may be trying to find the line of best fit in society. After all, defining “appropriate media coverage” is virtually impossible, thus, offending people is inevitable. However, we must draw the line somewhere. The moment of death is beyond the pale – what else should be?