Everyday Ethics

Everyday Ethics

Thai Rath Publishes Carradine Hanging Photo, Sparks Outrage

I haven’t blogged about the David Carradine story up ’til now, because, well, I thought it was somewhat unethical to dredge the actor’s death into the public spotlight more than it already was (if that were possible). I’m of the belief that gawking at an accident scene is really somewhat indecent. Even if it is a natural instinct, I think it’s one we should all try to overcome–if not for ourselves, then for the sake of those, like Carradine’s family, who would wish to have their privacy maintained in such a terrible moment.

But today I read that a Thai tabloid newspaper, Thai Rath, actually went so far as to publish hanging photos of Mr. Carradine’s body, allegedly taken by the forensics team, on their front page. Carradine’s family is said to be outraged, and who wouldn’t be?
What human beings won’t do for money, eh? I mean, I know the newspaper business is hurting globally, but even so, the sheer indecency of making public such gruesome, intensely personal images–photos sure to embarrass and grieve the actor’s family–just to make a buck really shows how little value some people place on ethical behavior. 
Sure, in 99.999% of cases, one wants the press to serve as an agent of fearless truth and keep the public informed. But tell me, what is the public interest being served here (other than a prurient one)?
Do *you* think it was a good idea for Thai Rath to publish a David Carradine death picture? Feel free to share your thoughts below. 

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Charles Cosimano

posted June 7, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Well, my first reaction was that I never really liked seeing David Carradine alive so I could not imagine wanting to look at him dead. But even for a confirmed ethical skeptic like myself, the photos would seem to be going a bit far.
On the other hand, I don’t know much about the tabloid market in Thailand and it might have been a perfectly sound business decision. After all, merely because something is unethical to somebody else is not sufficient reason not to do it.

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Christopher Alan

posted June 7, 2009 at 5:01 pm

I think that here in the U.S. we are given news media that is censored/sanitized to prevent us from being offended by the rawness of the news.
For instance, the coverage of the 9/11 aftermath was very different in the U.S. then it was in even England, let alone the rest of the world. While the U.S. media danced around (read downplayed) the subject of people jumping to their deaths from the World Trade Center buildings prior to their collapse, media in the rest of the world was both publishing and broadcasting images as well as video of the people jumping and falling to their deaths. BBC News did not have a problem publishing those photos on their web sites, nor did they have a problem broadcasting the video.
So from an ethical standpoint, who took the higher ground, the World Media for showing an un-altered, un-sanitized view of what was happening or the U.S. media that was looking out for our delicate sensibilities by sanitizing their coverage.
Likewise in the current situation, ultimately what is the ethical responsibility of the news media–to report unbiased accounts of what has happened or to water it down for consumption. I for one do not see this as an ethical debate and feel that it is actually an issue of “taste.” Once video leaked out of Saddam Hussein’s hanging how long did it take for CNN to have it up on the news with a disclaimer–Unethical, nope; in bad taste, 50/50 call; complete news coverage, absolutely.
On a bigger scope, how does the U.S. media sanitization of events such as war, violence & terrorism effect our perception of those events. Would we cry foul sooner and louder when we see things happen around the world thad should not? Maybe the sanitized version of the news gives us an easy out to our own ethical responsibilities.

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Hillary Fields

posted June 7, 2009 at 5:35 pm

Christopher, you make some good points, and I thank you for what you add to the discussion. What you say about the U.S. coverage of 9/11 rather surprises me, however. I didn’t watch British or other coverage of the event, but I was in NYC at the time, and felt that what I saw on CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, etc, etc, looked enough like what I was seeing and smelling from lower Manhattan to adequately describe the horror. I do recall there being coverage of people leaping from the towers–but that after one or two airings, the networks stopped showing it. And believe me, that was quite enough for me. I honestly could have lived without those images seared into my consciousness, where they will live for the rest of my days. However, I do get what you’re saying about ‘complete coverage.’ Had they NOT shown me those images, once or a hundred times, I might not have known the full scope of people’s despair, might not have had all the information about the tragedy. I agree that complete coverage, un-sanitized coverage, is crucial for good journalism. Had reporters NOT shown images of children being napalmed in Vietnam, would antiwar protests have been as loud?
You say this isn’t a matter of ethics, but of “bad taste.” Well, perhaps, but I respectfully disagree. When I speak of ethics, I am thinking of a ‘code of right behavior.’ This can, of course, differ from person to person and group to group, but in general it speaks to our sense of right and wrong, moral queasiness, knowledge of what is hurtful to others vs what does good. Can you really argue that publishing these photos does any good? It doesn’t seem quite the same to me as putting out Saddam Hussein’s death photos–even there, there was argument over whether to publish them, but in doing so, the world was able to confirm a dictator was indeed dead. David Carradine doesn’t have the same sort of global significance (or any, really). Putting his corpse on display serves no public purpose. Yet we can demonstrably say that the publication of the photos does harm–specifically, to his family.
I guess my point in this particular case is that the decision was not based on sound editorial judgement, but on greed and voyeurism, as far as I can tell. These photos in themselves are not newsworthy, unless they in some way dispute the facts or bring some new information to light. They’re just to sell papers.

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Al be sure

posted June 7, 2009 at 5:50 pm

This photo is a fake!

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posted June 7, 2009 at 6:29 pm

Yea I thought the same thing. The person the the photo has very dark hair,it doesn’t look gray at all. Wasn’t Carradines hair almost all gray, or is it possible that his hair was dyed for some movie he was doing? The photo is just way to fuzzy to tell if it is really him, and his feet look like they are either off the ground or strangely positioned, they appear bent. Wouldn’t his legs go out from under him when he passed out, and wouldn’t all the weight of his body then be supported by the closet rail, and wouldn’t it break?

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posted June 7, 2009 at 7:53 pm

I understand why so many are offended, as the US does not allow us to see such sights. Does anyone know where one can see these photos?

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Your Name

posted June 7, 2009 at 10:52 pm

I understand now that he was in a woman’s wig and had on fishnet stockings. I am very tired of others censoring what I am to see. Let me decide what is good/bad for me. Everything is sanitized so nothing is ‘awful’. Maybe that is why people don’t think much of the holocaust or 9/11 anymore. No one sees what these poor people went through so everyone thinks it is ‘peaceful’ when that is far from the truth. Carradine did something that ended his life whether by his own hand or another’s. That was his choice. To be seen by others should have been considered ahead of time.

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