(The following was written as a column piece for my Masters studies portfolio last October in the week after Dan Wheldon’s fatal accident in Las Vegas)
On Sunday evening, I watched in horror as Dan Wheldon – a racer, a champion, a father – lost his life in a sickening accident during the final IndyCar race of the season in Las Vegas.
On Monday morning, I watched in disgust as his final moments on this Earth were reduced to a voyeuristic spectacle by the mainstream television media.
Without so much as a warning or a disclaimer, both the BBC and ITV shamelessly and willingly ran full unedited footage of the fatal crash during their breakfast news bulletins.
Not only was this grossly unethical, the BBC had blatantly violated its own policy of ‘not broadcasting the moment of death’ on television.
For those many viewers to whom Wheldon was not a familiar name, their single lasting memory of this man will not be of him embracing his parents after winning his IndyCar championship in 2005, or enjoying the winner’s traditional milk drink after both of his Indy 500 victories – it will be of him perishing in a violent explosion of fire and debris.
No, the images were not excessively graphic.
No, banning the footage would not have helped bring Dan back to his loved ones.
But if we are to consider ourselves part of a decent, civilised society, we must ask – why did we need to see him be killed?
The media have reduced a man’s death to nothing more than a disgustingly morbid spectacle.
Death should never be entertainment.