Barrelled Thoughts #47 – Defining the Moral Line: Domestic Violence in Chinese Culture

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Last weekend I was asked to research a common topic in Chinese culture; one that is hushed, yet at the same time undergoing a revolution of sorts in the last decade: domestic violence.
My boss and mentor wanted to know why I thought Chinese media was so quick to publish raw, unadulterated images of domestic violence—particularly against children—depicting pixel after pixel of the bruised and battered. He told me that such images would never be allowed to go to press in the UK, leading to the logical question of whether it’s acceptable to publish such images just because the child is from abroad.
But why would someone want to publish gruesome pictures in the first place? He told me the following.
“My personal opinion is that domestic violence, whether it be against a wife or a child, is shocking, and if you constantly seek to keep the horror of it from people by deciding what they have a right to see and what not, then there is a risk of it being swept under the carpet and dismissed as something almost cavalier.
“Most of the time I tend to feel that if something is widely published abroad, that is where the law [to publish] applies, and the journalist’s role is to report on what’s happening without attempting to edit things for those that might be offended. However, if you start there, where do you stop? What is morally the correct approach to stories like this?”
His concerns mirror the ones I’ve heard recently after the widespread airing of U.S. journalist James Foley’s execution by ISIS Islamic radicals. Yes, it was a terrible ordeal; yes, a precious life was lost, but to what extent should the world be exposed to the images of truth?

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