The Age of the Tragic Selfie

Man takes a selfie at Erawan shrine

Excerpt from this article:

When daily life resumes at a scene of death and destruction it’s usually a hopeful sign. At the Erawan shrine in Bangkok, the site of Thailand’s most deadly bomb attack, it didn’t take long for Hindu worshippers to return – and with them came other people taking selfies. Is this now a natural response to tragedy?

It’s hard to know exactly what ritual is played out when we stand in front of a scene of tragedy and take a picture of ourselves. There is a debate among some Jewish groups, for example, about taking selfies at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, of all places – some say it’s an act of utter insensitivity and others that at least these selfie-takers have visited the place and may reflect on its horrors.

In Bangkok, I watched a few people at the shrine angling themselves so that the scene of mass-murder would appear in the shot behind them.

There is a global tourism industry and I suppose that participating in its rituals doesn’t mean that your brain or your heart has switched off. And who are we as journalists with our cameras to condemn citizens with their cameras?

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