herald

Monday 18 December 2017

So why is carnage fine, Facebook, but not nudity?

I ALWAYS knew there was something very wrong with this whole Facebook lark, something more than just the fact that so many people screw themselves out of a job or a relationship by spilling their guts for all their friends and the world to see in every drunken, half-naked pic they post.

Call it a hunch, like the uneasy feeling you might get at some massive party where everyone is laughing it up and having a ball but you just know something's not quite right and it'll all end horribly.

I couldn't quite put my finger on it though, until an underpaid, disgruntled employee of the world's richest social network site inadvertently threw a glaring light on everything that's wrong, not just with Facebook, but with the whole internet and, even more terrifyingly, our twisted 21st Century sense of propriety.

A document leaked to a gossip website this week detailed some of the weird, skewed rules Facebook applies to censor its users' posts, specifically, images relating to nudity and to gore. Anything sexual tops their list of things to delete -- but pictures showing 'flesh wounds, excessive blood, crushed heads and limbs, are okay - as long as no insides are showing'. In effect, nudity and sex are evil; bloody corpses are grand. See anything wrong with this picture? As dad to three teenage boys, I do.

When I was a young teen, we traded certain magazines like football cards. Granted, Playboy was pretty tame and I really only wanted to read the articles by Gore Vidal, Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer.



Frightened

Of course I'm lying. I'm no big fan of Vidal and Mailer, but at age 14 I stunned my English teacher with an insightful book report on the Vonnegut masterpiece Cat's Cradle, inspired by the prose I'd read each side of the centrefold Playmate of the Month.

Point is, it's natural for young guys to want to see what naked women look like -- and it doesn't make them bad people. See, nude pictures aren't supposed to make us feel sad or ashamed or frightened or disgusted. Those are the feelings we're supposed to have when we see the butchered remains of another human being. But the sad fact is that it's just as easy to find a video on the internet of a hostage having their head sawn off as it is of a couple shagging. Sure, there's no shortage of sex on the net and a lot of it is rotten trash.

But if we spent more time teaching teenagers how to treat other people with love, pity and compassion than we spend shielding them from images of naked bodies and acts of procreation, then I suspect they'd be well able to judge for themselves pretty quickly what's sick and what's not.

Unfortunately, we'll never be able to do that right in a world where a nude photo is deemed more shameful and horrific than a bloody head-less corpse.

And that's what I call sick.

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