OPINION: Do people really need to watch videos of police brutality to be informed?

Police brutality caught on body cameras, war crimes, live combat footage and bombings are all videos that have probably surfaced on our social media feeds. The jarring nature of this content makes us all either scroll quickly, or click immediately. Although studying the information in front of us, watching the footage, and formulating our own opinions may be a jarring experience, it also is the smartest thing we can do.

Some people may think that the footage being posted is far too graphic and prefer to stick to reading about the tragedies and watching the recap on the nightly news. Others may believe that we have a moral obligation to see the content for ourselves and process the reality of real-world hardships. 

The videos in our social media feeds display difficult footage of other people’s experiences in the world, and although it may be uncomfortable to witness, it is informative and beneficial for understanding of what is happening around us.

Recent footage of Tyre Nichols’s fatal interaction with five officers was shown on TV. The video showed Memphis police officers brutally beating, kicking and pepper spraying him, which led to his passing three days after

The release of the video caused an uproar of peaceful protests, petitions and activists to speak out against police brutality. This propelled a conversation of whether people should view the footage of Nichols or simply watch the news and read articles about what happened. 

DePaul film studies professor Kyle Barrowman says that censorship is not the answer and the footage should be available to those who wish to see it.

“I do not think that the Average Joes and Janes of the world have a moral obligation to watch every video that surfaces of every street fight, domestic abuse incident, police beating, mass shooting, etc,” Barrowman said. “However, for people who are socially or politically involved in the matters (i.e. TV news anchors, politicians, podcasters, etc.), I do believe that they have a moral obligation to watch the footage to ensure that their opinions are informed opinions.” 

DePaul student Ryan Deitch shares a similar stance to Barrowman, saying that we should be watching sensitive footage because it allows us to form our own individual interpretations. 

“People need to see things with their own two eyes and they need to draw their own conclusions based on how they feel about things and their own experiences and their own sensibilities,” Deitch said.

So far, two in five Americans have seen partial or full footage of Nichols’s attack, opening up a wide conversation of censorship and what it means to have the ability to see the footage and formulate our own stances, according to YouGovAmerica.

“Ultimately, it is real content,” Deitch said. “That’s what the world is. Those are things that are happening in the world, and to shelter ourselves from that is to wrongly insulate ourselves from real occurrences in the world.”

Graphic and disturbing footage such as war footage may be difficult to sit through, but allows us to form our own opinion rather than letting reporters and social media inform us of what they saw. A lot of times, the world is not always kind and forgiving, and we have the opportunity to see what is happening around us through these videos.

Oakton College student Zina Abood also shares her stance on the matter, agreeing with both Barrowman and Deitch’s points of view.

“I wish it wasn’t there, but I love that it’s getting the exposure it’s needed so hopefully, we can do something about it rather than it just being on news channels because it is an uncomfortable subject and a lot of people wish to just avoid it.” Abood said. “We have the privilege to just avoid it, but a lot of people don’t.”

Ultimately, the viewer still individually has a choice of whether to view the content or not. It is our individual right to be able to have access to the footage if we wish to form our own opinion, and because of the quickly rising digital age, we can do so at our own risks.

Because of the nature of the videos, someone may stick to solely reading about the tragic occurrences instead of viewing. However, this is not the most beneficial course of action. We live in a time period where we can formulate opinions through these videos as if we were there and directly witnessed these instances.

“When you see it, it’s imprinted in your brain, because a lot of these things, they’re hard to forget,” Abood said. “I like that it’s hard to forget, because a lot of people list through them, and if nobody’s doing anything about them because they don’t want to be uncomfortable by it, then nothings going to get done, and more mortality will spread (meaning death tolls will continue to rise.”