The Whirlwind

the shadow of a knife on a wall

I put a picture of a murder weapon at the top of this and nobody blinks an eye. If the picture showed a breastfeeding mother and baby – or, even worse, a female nipple with no baby attached – the picture would be censored. I can write, “he died in a hail of bullets”, and you nod and move on. Or you’re intrigued by the story. But if I write, “she put him inside her,” you might feel a little uncomfortable, or perhaps think I shouldn’t be writing such stuff. So my question is, why is it OK to kill people but not to love them? After all, pretty well everyone loves and has sex. Most people manage to get through life without actually killing anyone. “But sex is private,” you might say. Well, I can’t think of anything more private than dying.

The producer of a tv crime series told me once: the hero in his series had a rather nasty habit of downing attackers with a rabbit punch to the neck. In the show, because the script required it, the victim was usually up and talking a few moments later. The producer’s young son tried out this punch on his younger brother, who went down, and stayed down for more than twelve hours.

Oddly enough, I’m not saying you shouldn’t depict violence in the course of reportage, or of telling a story. What I am saying is that you should show the consequences. You should not cut away from the horrors of war. You should not show the explosions without showing the body parts. I don’t believe that violence on screen creates violent people. But I do think that, in separating the action from the results, it can seem that violent behaviour is (if you like) “safer” than it really is.

And it gets worse. ISIS/DAESH in their glossy propaganda productions are performing a sort of Hollywoodisation of real violence, real death. Perhaps in this, Hollywood is finally reaping the whirlwind: film after Hollywood film says, “Enjoy it, it’s not real.” Now ISIS are saying “Enjoy it. It’s just like the movies: but this is real!”

Is this what we want? Is this what we’re really like?