The Blog

Royal Baby Cynicism Isn't An Excuse For Images of Dead Babies

As I scrolled through my Facebook timeline on Saturday afternoon, there it was - an image of a little, black girl, fully-clothed in a bright pink tutu skirt, yellow trousers and a stripy top, floating face down in water that was obviously the sea.

Up until then, my timeline revealed only the political musings of my friends and acquaintances (focused on the upcoming UK election), excitement over Saturday night's Pacquiao v Mayweather fight in Vegas, what people had got up to on Friday night and a few posts about the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's new baby daughter.

Above the picture of the deceased child, the person who'd posted it had written "It's a girl! #royalbaby".

It took a few seconds (that felt more like an eternity) as I processed what I was seeing and the message the poster was trying to make. Shock turned to anger, with a good measure of disgust and also sadness.

Don't get me wrong. I agree that the media attention paid to the arrival of Prince George's new sibling is excessive and is perfectly lampooned by the Huffington Post headline "BREAKING NEWS: Woman Gives Birth To Second Baby". But it's not an opportunity to use shocking pictures of a dead child on social media to make a political point.

I am an immigrant myself, coming to England at the age of two and only becoming a UK citizen eight years later. Of the estimated 1,750 people that have drowned this year as they try to cross the Mediterranean in unsafe vessels, horrendous conditions and exploited by traffickers that have charged them thousands of pounds, many are sure to be children. This is a horrifying thought and, of course, we in Europe can't ignore the situation and have a duty to help in some way. But posting images of dead children (or dead bodies of any sort) is failing to give these victims the dignity in death they were searching for as they attempted to forge a new life in Europe.

I wrote to the poster to let him know I thought the image was in bad taste and unnecessarily upsetting; that he is eloquent enough to make his point without resorting to shock tactics; that I felt it robbed victims of their dignity. In addition, when children are involved, there should always be even greater sensitivity.

We can't let more and more hopeless migrants risk their lives on the water and EU leaders can do more. Nevertheless, graphic images of dead children are not needed to drive this message home. I don't believe any of us need to see abused kids to fight against paedophilia and child abuse. I feel just as strongly about pictures of dead children in war torn regions including Gaza and Syria which have also popped on my timeline - despite the fact I feel solidarity for their causes. I was just as angry when Mail Online showed the floating bodies of victims of December's Air Asia crash on the site's homepage. It's morbid, unnecessary and tawdry.

In fact, I would go so far as to argue that the preponderance of these types of images (especially on social media) actually desensitises us. There have been a number of studies done that show that exposure to violence in the media makes people "numb to the pain and suffering of others", such as the often-cited Bushman and Anderson report "Desensitizing Effects of Violent Media on Helping Others". Social media already plays a huge part in the lives of young people and has brought with it its own unique problems, including cyber-bullying, online sexual solicitation and sexting. Is there really any need to add explicit death images to the mix?

If you want to draw attention to the plight of migrants, there are many things you can do that don't involve plastering pictures of dead children on social media sites. You can highlight the demonization of immigrants who certain parts of the media and UKIP would have you believe are stealing all our jobs and using up our limited resources. There are charities like Migrant Help and Amnesty International specifically looking for volunteers and donations. Or you could just sign the petition against Katie Hopkins launched following her deplorable comments about migrants.

We don't need hundreds of articles and hours of news coverage on the new princess. However, in my opinion, it's just as bad to hijack the happy event of the birth of a healthy baby to make a political point in such a sensationalist way when the facts written in words is just as shocking and awful. And, as trivial as a new royal baby may be, it's actually quite nice to have a break from the constant news of war, death, disease and tragedy - just a pause to smile, enjoy and celebrate something nice.

Popular in the Community