“Tolerance and apathy are the last virtues of a dying society.” – Aristotle
“One has a legal duty to use reasonable care to avoid causing emotional distress to another individual. If one fails in this duty and unreasonably causes emotional distress to another person, that actor will be liable…”
Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NEID) is, in essence, a personal injury claim that arises when one person (the defendant) acts so carelessly that he or she must compensate the injured person (the plaintiff) for his or her mental or emotional injury.
NIED claims are a unique type of personal injury claim where the plaintiff demands compensation for emotional distress, even when no physical injury occurred.
There’s a situation happening in the USVI. Recent media choices to post pictures of two slain young men have created a buzz amongst both those in opposition and in favor.
“This is heartless and insensitive indeed”
“This same outrage should happen everyday, not when the picture is blasted on social media.”
“Geez..have some decorum and respect for the dead!”
“The question is, does this actually shake up anyone anymore? I am so deeply appalled by how another day/ week-another shooting, is almost a mantra for our islands. While saddened when another senseless killing occurs, my student are fatalistic if not entirely inured. The no tell culture for personal safety in double down. To quote a student last semester. ” you snitch, you in a ditch”.
My heart weeps.” ~, University of the Virgin Islands Professor
Again, the question is, does this actually shake up anyone anymore?
Virgin Islands Journalist April Knight shared my facebook post.
“I’m appalled at the initial act of posting Monday’s homicide photos by online media. I’m equally appalled by these so-called journalists’ subsequent act of defending their actions with the kind of guilty rationalization that must assume their readers are idiots.
If these editors think people will miraculously become sensitized and say enough is enough to crime just because they saw gruesome crime photos, they’re utterly deluded. A finely written story can accomplish the same thing without traumatizing grieving families.
Journalism is a privilege; irresponsible journalism can do as much damage to the soul of a community as any crime of violence.”
As a journalist, we have a specific code of ethics. While sometimes shock therapy works wonders in turning people around, what we don’t want to encourage is unnecessary sensationalism. Instead of getting people mad enough to do something productive, widely sharing pictures or things like the gruesome photos often desensitizes people and does the opposite of the intended purpose. People tend to look at is as ‘just another Facebook post’, or ‘another killing’ instead of thinking deeper and internalizing the motivating drive to do something productive.
1. Media can and should report on situations occurring in the public domain
2. As a newspaper, they can publish pictures captured in the public domain
3. Newspapers etc. have been successfully found legally liable for infliction of emotional distress
In order to establish a prima facie* case of negligence, one must determine that the following four elements are established:
1.) Plaintiff (P) must have suffered an injury and must demonstrate that the injury was suffered due to Defendant (D)’s actions;
2.) D must have owed a duty not to cause injury;
3.) D breached that duty, and;
4.) D’s breach was an actual and proximate cause of P’s injury
Prima Facie (defined) – In legal practice the term generally is used to describe two things: the presentation of sufficient evidence by a civil claimant to support the legal claim (a prima facie case), or a piece of evidence itself (prima facie evidence).
OPPOSING VIEWS ON POSTING THE PICTURE
1. It helps people realize how bad the situation is – it’s a wake up call
2. It desensitizes people and does the opposite of the supposed intended purpose
FROM THE VI CONSORTIUM ARTICLE – Why they posted it:
“On Monday evening, The Virgin Islands Consortium reported a shooting incident that occurred near the Red Brick Shanty in Christiansted [St. Croix, VI]. The scene was graphic: lifeless bodies of two men on the ground, wasted; their lives cut short. The perpetrator had apparently marked his prey and attacked while they played dominoes.
Blood gushing from their spiritless bodies; the scene was horrendous. Family and friends could be seen on the sidelines grieving while dozens of onlookers — among them children who had attended an event at the same location — gazed in amazement. Emergency medical technicians searched desperately for signs of life, but none was found.
The scene was not only horrendous, it was shocking and horrific.
The Consortium, after careful consideration, made a decision to publish the story along with some of the graphic pictures that the publication had captured.”
The Consortium went on to express that though they, “expected hostile responses from residents frustrated by our decision,” they intended to accomplish something progressive.
“…we felt that the best way we could help in quelling crime in our communities was to bring attention to the graphic nature of these crimes so our leaders could wake up to the brutal reality; and take decisive action.”
After numerous social media posts, comments, direct calls, Facebook page un-liking and blocking, along with an alleged call from the mother of the victims, the Consortium took the picture down within 24 hours and posted their explanation.
Many rejoiced in the success of using people power to apply pressure in order to achieve positive results, only to find that yet another media source had posted the picture on their website and Facebook page.
I commented under the post: I notice that The Virgin Islands Consortium took down their picture, which we’re relieved for, but the Virgin Islands Free Press still has up theirs. One thing I agree with is that this is an opportunity to get people thinking and talking. Everything happens for a reason. There can be some positive out of every situation. Let’s help this one encourage change in the people of the USVI.
Pause now from pointing the finger and self-reflect. Of course, ultimately, the REAL question is,
SO WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT THE VIOLENCE?
DID YOU SHARE THE PICTURE? IF SO, WHY? DID YOU CONSIDER THE FAMILY 1st or just think, WOW, look at that?! Sharing pictures and posts that aren’t agreed with perpetuates the shock factor and increases desensitization.
#HumanityOverLegality Just because it’s legal, doesn’t make it right(eous). Keep the dialogue going and join us at the next major event related to creating awareness, providing support and bringing the community together in the name of Anti-Gun Violence. Saving Lives… Reclaiming our Families, Schools, and Community. Visit www.vimothersagainstguns.org for more info.
Personal Communication, Tregenza Roach (Attorney, Current Senator, Former UVI Journalism Law and Ethics Professor)