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Feb. 27, 2007

YouTube goes overboard

by Johanna Gretschel, Online Managing Editor
A nonstop flow of yelling in Arabic is the only sound in the film as an unidentified object swings in and out of the dark, grainy scene. A few more seconds reveals the object to be the dead body of Saddam Hussein, former Iraqi dictator. That's all thanks to YouTube, a widely popular and controversial home video uploading and sharing service. Now, anyone with a working email address and the savvy to change one's birth year to earlier than 1988 when registering for the site can access the disturbing footage with the click of a button.

The very notion of watching an execution for the purpose of entertainment is nauseating, one's stance on the death penalty notwithstanding. Witnessing bloodshed on the internet is simply a modern version of the gladiator battles of the Roman Empire. Abuse of the free website through uploading such inappropriate and offensive material as the Saddam Hussein execution video cannot be tolerated.

The concept behind YouTube is perfectly legitimate and even clever; one can argue that people uploading and sharing amateur videos is an underground art form. While an open forum for artistic expression is ideal, YouTube must maintain its responsibility to monitor the videos displayed on the site. Setting an age limit for viewers, the measure already in place, is not an adequate solution because it is too simple to trick the system by changing one's birth date during registration for the site. The only way to ensure innocent eyes do not view such disturbing footage is by not making such videos available.

The source of the Hussein execution video is almost even more appalling than what is captured in the footage itself. Two guards officiating the execution recorded Hussein's hanging using a camera phone. The guards were ultimately caught and punished, but the product of their misdeed remains on the internet. It seems as though there are two types of people in today's society: those who will stop at nothing for a slice of fame, and those who encourage this self-serving behavior through giving it attention. Is being remembered for filming Hussein's hanging worth losing one's job? Is the human desire for fame so strong that someone would even want to be known for filming such an sickening video?

Death is not a public spectacle to be gawked at. Hussein certainly is responsible for the deaths of countless people, but his wrongdoings do not justify exploitation by the media.

YouTube users can leave comments on videos, and the messages decorating the pages of the multiple versions of the video depicting Hussein's death certainly are colorful. While some comments speak out against President Bush and the Iraq war, most are expletive-filled tirades of twisted nationalism celebrating the death of Hussein. Any users who attempt to question the ethics of someone posting a video depicting death are verbally attacked. A self-professed half-Iranian user said he or she was sickened by the fact that the video was being displayed for entertainment purposes. In response, another user wrote, "I don't give a dang what you Iranians have to say in this matter either. You're too stupid being brainwashed from birth to know any better."

The presence of this video on the internet is not bringing back the lives of any of the tens of thousands of people whom Hussein is responsible for killing. The video is succeeding only in fueling hatred and racism.




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  • af on February 27, 2007 at 10:23 AM
    Youtube is awesome, but this video being put on the internet is sickening.
  • well on February 27, 2007 at 11:30 AM
    A little late for this story.
  • C. S. on February 27, 2007 at 12:20 PM
    "death is not a public spectacle to be gawked at"
    What about public hangings, beheadings, etc? People have always made a public spectacle of death.
  • Republican on February 27, 2007 at 1:33 PM
    Death is not a public spectable to be gawked at. When Saddam Hussein died, it was not a man who died, it was the death of an oppressive government. It was all over the newspapers and all over the internet. All the people who read the articles and watching the video on the internet are not doing it for the entertainment. They are instead doing it for the curiosity and the wish to see the oppressive government dead.

    People weren't setting off fireworks for the death of a man. They were setting off fireworks for the death of a government.
  • Libertarian (View Email) on February 27, 2007 at 3:50 PM
    Everyone knows he was killed, everyone knows he was hanged. This stuff goes on in the world and people deserve to see how gruesome it is. Why do you think youtube should shield people from what goes on in the world? Yes I can see how kids under 18 (unless they have parental permission) may not be able to see it, especially considering how many kids copied it for fun (and several died), but this is too valuable information to have banned from youtube. They are not responsible for censoring their stuff, they are simply a medium for distributing information. Forcing them to censor this would be a HUGE violation of free speech. The government should have no say in censoring this and there is no reason for youtube to. I think it is beneficial for people to see how gruesome death really is.
  • Re: C.S. and Republican on February 27, 2007 at 4:02 PM
    1)Just because death has historically been gawked at doesn't mean that it is OK! If that logic was valid, just think of all the horrible things we would still be doing! Making a public spectacle of death is decidedly sick and disturbing, history has nothing to do with it.
    2)The fact that Saddam Hussein's death represented the death of an oppressive government does not make making a spectacle of his death any better. In fact, because he represented an oppressive government it is unlikely he got a fair trial, which makes watching his death for entertainment all the worse. (And no, I am not saying that he was innocent, just that the decision to hang him was not fairly made.)
  • Someone you may know on February 27, 2007 at 5:24 PM
    The validity of the video being posted on the Internet does not bother me. It's more important to society than that LonelyGirl15 nonsense. In the end, it's a choice to watch the video or not. Don't blame YouTube for this, but rather our society for reacting to the video as we did.

    To Republican:
    "All the people who read the articles and watching the video on the internet are not doing it for the entertainment. They are instead doing it for the curiosity and the wish to see the oppressive government dead."
    Unless you surveyed every single person that has watched the video of the Hussein hanging, you do not know what their motives were. I suppose that some people were watching it purely for entertainment, not because it marked the death of a government. You cannot make blanket statements as such unless you have the data to back it up.
  • Appalled on February 27, 2007 at 7:22 PM
    If you haven't seen the video, you can't say anything. The video itself was gruesome and horrible. If you enjoyed it, you are a sick human and need psychiatric help.
    It's not really about censorship, rather about morals. How would you feel if you were stabbed to death, and someone filmed it and put it on youtube, including some 10 seconds of your body in its death throes?
    keeping it up is not violating anything in the constitution, but it's violating basic human rights. Your death should not be made entertainment.
  • Libertarian (View Email) on February 27, 2007 at 8:04 PM
    To Appalled:

    Turn on a movie, chances are there's some violence, probably some shooting and death. I'm not saying it's great, but for some reason people like seeing violence and death. Maybe it makes us think about life and the fact that it can be ended just like that. But for better or worse people like seeing death.

    Making it about morals is just a cop-out to censor it. Unless you're saying you don't think it should be censored but that it's disgusting that people like it. You're not entirely clear here.

    How would I feel? Simple, I wouldn't feel anything, I'd be dead. But more seriously if I murder and rape as many people as he did you have my permission to hang me, film it, and show it to the world. To call him a human being is generous. I'm normally against the death penalty but here I was indifferent. I will never be able to condemn a killing, but if there were ever a just killing, this was it.

    Republican actually made a pretty good point. I can't speak for anyone (I saw it once and was disgusted to say the least), but I assume the reason they enjoyed it was because of what it represented. I don't think they'd be entertained by a random person being hanged. But this represented freedom for so many people, and a free from the fear they lived in under Saddam. Sure we may not be setting up a much better government, but when you've lived that long in fear of your life, could you help but rejoyce when that man is killed? You will never again have to fear this "man" again.

    And you said so yourself, there is no reason the government can ban this, so they can't. Not for warrantless wiretapping and not for banning tapes of hangings. Youtube could, but I'm glad they're not. It happens and I think people benefit from watching what really happens in a hanging and how gruesome it really is.

    I will NEVER be for exempting people from REAL human rights no matter what they do. I was for Saddam's right to a fair trial, for criminals having rights, and I still think that taking voting/wepon ownership rights away from FORMER felons is wrong. But when it is just a made up right and you call it a "basic human right", well I think he forefited all implied HUMAN rights when he acted as un-humanlike as he did. He was quite simply a monster. I'm not glad we had to kill him, but I'm glad he's gone. I lose no sleep at night knowing he was killed. Calling him a human is a stretch for any imagination.
  • Appalled on February 27, 2007 at 8:48 PM
    The entire display is something like how ancient people used to put heads of convicts on the wall. It's really unnecessary. The only people that need to "enjoy" the actual death of a man, not a fake death in movies, are the people who were directly affected. Otherwise, it is similar to petty "another point for humankind! HA take that you evil people"
    Is there really a reason to show it to the rest of the world who sit in front of the computer and make racist, poorly worded, and incorrect comments?
    True, he did heinous crimes, but what's done is done, he died for his crimes, but now we jeer at his death and watch it as entertainment. It may not be a deed nearly as bad as his, but deriving contentment from watching a gruesome video because he was a monster? You may enjoy the death of a monster that killed your family, but a bystander should only have to acknowledge that justice has been done to people in other places, not see the killing of the killer.
  • well on February 28, 2007 at 4:57 PM
    Who said this is for entertainment? I understand that some people actually would see this for amusement, but let them deal with their weird humor. This is just something that happened. Yeah I saw the video and I think it is wrong but I'm not highly offended by it. (I agree with Someone you may know). This isn't that gruesome to watch. Believe me, when I was visiting Bolivia they showed a man being burned alive on the news. People were kicking him and pouring more gas on him. Why? He raped a little girl. It is pretty terrible to see that but hey it's what happened in the real world, it's life.
  • 2007 on February 28, 2007 at 7:18 PM
    YouTube has no reason to censor this, and I find it absurd for you to come on here and make these demands.

    Firstly, from a purely callous, business stand point, the saddam execution video provided YouTube with lots of hits. The number of hits they get is what justifies what they can charge advertisers on their site. More people watching = more money for YouTube.

    Also, a desire for fame?? Does anyone even know the names of the people who shot the tape? Did they ever know them? This wasn't done for fame, it was so people could see this and know that it was truly over. For many, just hearing something isn't enough. If it's possible to be seen, that is better.

    Thirdly, where was this editorial when innocent American's were being beheaded, mutilated, etc. for all the world to see?

    Finally, this was published like 2 months too late. I mean, c'mon.
  • Libertarian (View Email) on March 1, 2007 at 9:03 PM
    To Appalled, I get your point, but is it right for the government to censor it? Should youtube censor it? I don't think either should (although youtube DOES have that right).

    And I agree with 2007, one minor point I believe the difference is the beheadings were not in the US therefore there's nothing the US could have done to stop them.
  • blah on March 2, 2007 at 9:58 AM
    this is old news. the video has been up for months
  • i just saw the video on March 3, 2007 at 12:56 PM
    Personally I thought the video was boring. It did nothing for me. It didn't disgust or gross me out, in fact you could barely even see what was going on. Also, as someone who strongly supported the Iraq War, I did not feel any sense of joy in seeing Saddam's death. It did nothing for me. YouTube has the right to put whatever they want on, but people that are calling it disgusting really need to chill out, its not a big deal.
  • Bryan (View Email) on March 22, 2007 at 10:34 AM
    Excellent, excellent article. I ran across it while researching for my college senior paper on sensational media and its relation to the criminal justice system. I didn't realize until after reading the article that this is a high school newspaper and writer. Good writing, and good points, too.

    (Not to mention that it gives me some great input for my senior paper.)
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