Videolow is convincing too

This week’s discussion/reading of the Rodney King video as an example of both videohigh and videolow got me thinking of the use of violent video footage in order to draw attention to an issue, and the ethical implications that come along with that.

I’m thinking specifically of the graphic video of Walter Scott who was shot in the back by police while running from them.  The video itself is an example of videolow – as it is unedited footage depicting an event.  However, this video was so widely circulated for the purpose of convincing people that the event actually happened.  I think that it is fair to say that even raw footage can serve the function of convincing people of things in the same way that the article by Fiske describes videohigh.

The media has a particular way of reporting the injustices committed against black people in that it is never reported as being unfair, and usually favours the police officers’ side of events. Similarly, the audience often reacts in the same way – assuming that the cops must have been justified in attacking unarmed citizens.  Often, because of how the media has treated black bodies in the past, people think there needs to be solid “evidence” of violence occurring against black people before they will believe it.  That’s where the footage of Walter Scott comes in.

This unedited footage functions to convince it’s viewers that police were in the wrong, since it is so undeniable in the video.  The problem I have with this is that it seems exploitative to circulate a video of someone being murdered in order to convince an audience that there are injustices occurring against racialized people.  Because the footage is unedited, it is more impactful than doctored footage would be, because the audience is able to infer their own (in this case undeniable) conclusion of violence.

Does anyone else take issue with the fact that footage of someone being shot to death is being used as “proof” of something that Black Lives Matter protestors have been attempting to alert the public of? To me, there is something unsettling about the media being so comfortable disseminating such graphic footage, and I wonder if the person who was shot and killed had been white if the footage would be so easily accessible or whether the memory of their death would have been more respected.


Please note, I did not include a link to the video in this post because as mentioned, I’m uncomfortable with the idea of watching someone’s life taken from them.



  1. While the use of graphic imagery can be an effective tool in convincing the audience of injustices occurring, this is definitely a complex issue I continue to grappled with. Your post immediately made me think of the photo shown all over the news of the drowned Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi, whose image was said to have sparked humanitarian action within Canadians and other citizens around the globe. I found this photo unsettling in many ways: Alan’s Kurdi dead body was cast over the news to draw sympathy for refugees, yet the Syrian Crisis was not ‘new’ news and what was even more disturbing is the fact that it took the photo of this innocent boy’s body for citizens to realize the seriousness of the crisis and spark compassion within them. Additionally, a huge graffiti wall depicts the same image that was portrayed on the news of Alan Kurdi in Frankfort; it was painted as a memorial to those who have died while fleeing. While art is a great way to express oneself and show support in a very public form, I have to question the use of that image in particular. It seems to define Alan Kurdi not for his life, but for the tragic fate he faced while attempting to claim refugee status. I also agree that the use of graphic footage is an extremely problematic, that has becomes almost “necessary” to depict issues that do not align with the dominant discourses of a society.

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  2. You make some important points! I agree with Alayna, this is definitely something I grapple with as well. The use of graphic images is difficult to navigate, and the idea of desensitization has become increasingly problematic. Between pop culture, and the current state of global affairs, graphic images have become a part of our social networks. I think at the end of the day their is no right or wrong answer to this, but I do want to consider the reality of racism in American. There is a growing trend in denial as white nationalists refuse to acknowledge the crisis that occurring. The issue itself is upsetting, but if visual “proof” like this exists, who gets to dictate if it is too sensitive for the public? Sensationalism is a deeply disturbing byproduct, but does blinding ourselves to contested events offer us anything better?


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