The disrespected deceased: footage of luger’s death shows need of television and online regulations to prevent spread of snuff

March 24, 2010 — by Christine Bancroft

Luger Nodar Kumaritashivili speeding down the track. Kumaritashivili going airborne as his luge remains grounded. Kumaritashivili tumbling through the air and coming to a disturbingly fast stop around a steel beam. On-site paramedics compressing his chest and trying to get air flowing through his lungs.

On Feb. 12, the start of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games and the beginning of one young athlete’s life and career, a horrific and shocking tragedy became grim entertainment for the international community. The accidental death of Georgian Olympic luger Nodar Kumaritashivili, which was videotaped and then distributed to Internet video forums and news corporations alike, was soon an unfortunate example of one of the anonymous freedoms that the Internet gives to users. The death of a young man can be watched in between music videos and television episodes, and even when many media conglomerates refuse to air the clip, it is still easily found online.
These so-called “snuff videos” have become popular on underground forums, accurately revealing the baseness of human nature. While the death of another human being should be regarded as tragic, a sickeningly large constituency of people prefer to use it for amusement and send videos of it to friends.
Even after NBC, ABC and other news corporations refused to broadcast the clip, either online or on air, the video was still passed about with little to no second thought, much less regulation.
Very little purpose is served by using the video to relay facts to people. More information is given through actual reporting. There have been other documented deaths in the past, some examples being the execution of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein or videoed deaths of political assassinations or accidental murders of protesters during riots. But while these clips provide educational or social purpose—either to unite a group of people in revolution or to teach future generations about the lives and deaths of certain individuals—a video of an accident that resulted in a horrific death can only be described as sick.
Some sort of regulation to prevent or, at a minimum, limit, the spread of these snuff films is necessary—and not only to honor the deaths of people like Kumaritashivili, but as a courtesy to respect the friends and families of the deceased. NBC’s decision to air the video on the evening news the night of the Olympic Opening ceremonies, the day Kumaritashivili died, also shows a lack of responsibility and forethought on the part of the media. Gruesomeness aside, the video was inappropriate to be aired that night and dishonored the dedication of the Opening Ceremonies to the young man and his country.
The disrespect shown toward Kumaritashivili, his family and his memory should be reason enough to implement a statute of limitations on what is acceptable on public video forums and on television. The general public has no right to forward videos of this great tragedy to friends and family as though it were just another few minutes of entertainment. Human beings should show respect to others. The Internet is not exempt from this basic tenet.