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By Lilie Chouliaraki

This e-book is ready the connection among the spectators in international locations of the west, and the far away patient at the tv display; the patient in Somalia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, but additionally from manhattan and Washington DC. How can we relate to tv pictures of the far-off patient? The query touches at the moral position of the media in public existence at the present time. They deal with the problem of no matter if the media can domesticate a disposition of deal with and engagement with the far-off different; even if tv can create an international public with a feeling of social responsibililty in the direction of the far-off patient.

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The consequence of the collage effect for the spectator may well be less responsibility towards the sufferer and more apathy vis-à-vis the world. Suffering, it tells us, occurs all the time everywhere and it has become all too common to raise an eyebrow. It becomes banal. This means that the spectacle of suffering is not doubted in terms of its veracity, but, on the contrary, passively accepted as the truth of television and, indeed, of life. As McQuire puts it, talking about evil, ‘resistance to believing has been overrun by the perception that such evil is “human all too human”’ (1999: 153).

Far from depriving spectators of the reflexive agency to decide if and how to respond to suffering, Butler points to the fact that they are always already addressed as ethical subjects before their moment of decision. The address by the ‘other’ happens, as Butler says, by virtue of being confronted with the spectacle of suffering itself, unexpected and unplanned in the monologic flow of television. This structure of address consists of those practices of discourse – linguistic and visual – via which television construes the scene of suffering as a spectacle to be watched and invites spectators to feel for and engage with sufferers’ misfortunes.

Visualization facilitates the move from thinking of Amina Lawal’s condition as a story in our heads towards thinking that her imminent stoning is an urgent and horrific reality for a young mother out there in the world. Although not a guarantee that there will be a closing of the moral distance between the two, the visualization of the sufferer is nevertheless a mode of address with a strong moral appeal to the spectator. Immediacy refers not to suffering as a mise en scène, as theatrical spectacle, but, rather, as an emotional and practical reality in itself.

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