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There are no rules anymore: How journalists have only themselves to blame for the viral photo of Danish Siddiqui’s corpse

Privacy in death is the one sacred norm that is violated with extreme caution, if it is ever violated at all. Indeed, parading dead bodies in public is a sign of barbarism and savagery, something Islamic terrorists are greatly fond of with their public executions.

Laws are important for any society to prosper and function adequately. But even more so are those unspoken norms that are based not on the legal system of a country but on ethics and personal morality. The punishment for violating such rules is not imprisonment or fines but losing the goodwill of those they share their homeland with.

‘Rationalists’ might even argue that such norms are not based on sound logic and violating them does not constitute a grave moral crime. Such people inadvertently end up encouraging the violation of such norms. Take the norm of respecting elders, for instance.

Yes, elders can be stupid, some can be downright criminals and perverts but in general to teach children to respect their elders is still a good idea. Some ‘rationalists’ would question, “Why should we respect someone just because of their age? Respect is earned, not given!”

On the face of it, there might be some logic behind such arguments but across all cultures everywhere, elders are widely given respect and it is a universal norm that children are taught to respect their elders. The simplest rebuttal to arguments against it is that if a norm has such universality and has survived through hundreds of years to this day, then it ostensibly does provide some benefits to human societies and the benefits outweigh the costs.

After all, the greatest confirmation of a hypothesis is its validity in the world we live, not in theories. Theories must be tailored to explain reality adequately, not the other way around. One such norm that has evolved over centuries and is the norm in most cultures is that death is a private affair and the dead body of the deceased is reserved for the eyes of the family. In the 21st century, even pedophiles and murderers sentenced to die in civilised societies are awarded the privilege of privacy.

It is considered obscene to parade the dead body of the deceased for the eyes of the world at large. Even Kasab and Yakub Memon, responsible for the deaths of hundreds and hundreds of people, were awarded the same privilege. Privacy in death is the one sacred norm that is violated with extreme caution, if it is ever violated at all. Indeed, parading dead bodies in public is a sign of barbarism and savagery, something Islamic terrorists are greatly fond of with their public executions.

Second Wave of Covid-19 pandemic

Something changed during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was one of the darkest phases in the history of independent India. Thousands of people lost their lives and at one point, the healthcare system of the country was in the brink of collapse.

Demand for medical oxygen skyrocketed sharply and the Government had very little time to augment the supply of medical oxygen, which they did eventually. But by the time they could secure an adequate supply, thousands had already lost their lives.

People were struggling to secure a bed in hospitals as most were overburdened. Thus, when spirits were low and the future looked bleak, journalism in the country sank to even lower depths. Truth be told, the media conducted itself shamefully during the whole pandemic.

From the CNN admitting to an undercover journalist that they were highlighting the Covid-19 death tally in the United States for ratings to the entire media branding the Covid-19 lab leak hypothesis as a ‘conspiracy theory’ without a shred of evidence, the media went from one blunder to the next without feeling any sense of shame.

But undoubtedly, the lowest they stooped to was in India, where journalists across the board ran helter-skelter to capture photographs of funeral pyres. Reuters, BBC, New York Times, nearly every international media outlet published images of funeral pyres on their front pages.

Barkha Dutt was one of them, Danish Siddiqui was another. And thus was a sacred norm violated, one of the most sacred norms in civilised society.

Danish Siddiqui killed by Taliban in Afghanistan

On Friday, the 16th of July, it was reported that Reuters photojournalist Danish Siddiqui was killed during clashes with the Taliban. He was traveling with Afghan forces when they were attacked by the Taliban.

Soon after, a photograph of his dead body surfaced on social media. And journalists, as if on cue, began pleading with others to not circulate the photograph as it was disrespectful to the dead. It was a remarkable demonstration of hypocrisy, really.

Danish Siddiqui killed by Taliban, dead body photograph
The appeal by one journalist

The very people who captured photographs of funeral pyres, violated the right to privacy of the deceased’s family, suddenly realised that sharing the image of a corpse is disrespectful to the dead. One of the most ironic comments came from Stuti Mishra, a reporter with The Independent, who appealed to people to not circulate the image right after sharing photographs of funeral pyres captured by Danish Siddiqui himself.

Until now, journalists were defending the funeral pyre photographs saying it was important to highlight the extent of the crisis in India. But that could have been highlighted in a million different ways. It is only when people are circulating the photograph of Siddiqui’s corpse that the realization has dawned on them that it is disrespectful to the deceased.

Danish Siddiqui killed by Taliban, dead body photograph
The appeal by Stuti Mishra

As the old saying goes, you do not realise the effect your actions have on others until you step in their shoes. And this did really hit close to home. Journalists suddenly realise that photographs of their dead bodies may be circulated in the future as well, just as the treatment that is now being meted out to Danish Siddiqui.

But they have to remember here that things have escalated to this point because it is they who violated the sacred norm of respecting the privacy of the deceased’s family. It is they who trampled on the rule, then danced on top of it in the fancy clothes that were bought with the money that was earned. And now, they are receiving payback for their transgressions.

Danish Siddiqui incident shows there are no rules anymore

The series of events highlights perfectly why rules are important. As I remarked elsewhere, “Such rules do not exist to protect others from your frivolity, they exist to protect you from the savagery of the hordes.”

The ‘intellectual class’ is free to violate them, of course, for they are safer than anyone else from any adverse consequences but they do so at their own peril. Danish Siddiqui was an active participant in the desecration of the sacred norm, the rules were defiled and shat upon and it shall not be forgotten that the degeneration was initiated by the ‘intellectual’ class.

They have violated the very laws that protected them from savagery, much the same way as an idiot cuts off the very branch of the tree he is sitting on. And the consequences are terrible.

Why rules are important

Such rules are important because they represent the essence of co-existence, they are the unspoken agreement that people in a society agree to so that they may continue to exist together in harmony. When such norms are defiled, even without breaking any laws, it leads to a breach of trust that is essential for members of a society to work together.

For instance, the ‘intellectual class’ highlights human rights abuses based on the identity of the perpetrator committing them. What it has led to is a situation where human rights abuses are not considered grave enough by anyone involved.

The same ‘intellectual class’ picks and chooses cases of violations of women’s rights and what it has resulted in is that feminism as an ideology has been discredited entirely. Such norms are not important only for individual countries alone but also international relations between countries.

The United States of America, for example, harps on about “rules based international order” while engaging in regime change wars abroad and working to destabilize entire countries. It accuses China of human rights violations while it continues to wage illegal wars in the Middle East which have cost the lives of hundreds and thousands of people and destroyed the lives of millions others.

The inevitable consequence of such duplicity is that rules do not exist anymore. All that exists is power and forces in pursuit of it, without anyone caring enough about the moral consequences of it.

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K Bhattacharjee
Black Coffee Enthusiast. Post Graduate in Psychology. Bengali.

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