Takes on a plane: Is it immoral to share and shame on YouTube?

Approx Reading Time-10After a Youtube clip of an irate airline passenger went viral in spite of her medical condition, I’m wondering, not that we crossed the line, but if it actually exists.




Over the weekend we had our latest edition to the growing library of YouTubed videos, a woman who was furious at the pace of the debarkation of her flight. She swore a lot, someone took umbrage, the piece went viral. The human condition reduced to a digestible, three-minute capsule. As the passenger filmed the piece on his camera and laughed, perhaps we did too. However, the context of the piece, in that the agitated woman listed the medical reasons why she needed to get off the plane – and ultimately, to hospital – has me wondering: is it immoral to shame the people we perceive as one of society’s problems?

A byproduct of the age of accessible information is our enabling the shrieks of the bloodied imp that represents the worst of us; be it the clip that bitterly showed two newscasters slain on a balcony by a deranged ex-employee, or the racially fuelled tirade espoused by Karen Bailey, the woman who queried the reason why a fellow traveller had an Asian girlfriend on a Sydney train, spouting: “Is it really that small that you can’t get an Aussie girl? Poor man. Look at this bogan, he has got a – look at it. She probably thinks he is rich.”

They, of course, were all filmed, and uploaded onto the ‘Tube for various reasons. That reason changes as soon as someone watches it, of course, as the response it garners is entirely subjective. Using the first example, some might have found the woman railing against the glacial airline process combined with curse words to be relatable, or funny. Then there are those who realise the seriousness of a medical emergency of such magnitude.

This moment of realisation has probably come far too late, as we’ve already planted our feet in a Shakespearian fashion – we’ve waded so far into the river of detritus that returning to normalcy would be far more difficult than continuing our step into the abyss. The problem holds within my opening question. Our perception of what we find immoral.

According to the YouTube guidelines, uploaders are asked to stray from the handful of deadly YouTube sins: nudity, graphic content, copyright infringement, threats, hateful content and spam. But largely, YouTube asks us to police ourselves, with the first sentence of advice given being: “We rely on YouTube community members to flag content that they find inappropriate. Flagged content is not automatically taken down by the flagging system.” Moreover, the guidelines are written in a folksy authoritarian fashion, uttered in the same way a casual teacher would try and lay down the law. For example:

Here are some common-sense rules that’ll help you steer clear of trouble. Please take these rules seriously and take them to heart. Don’t try to look for loopholes or try to lawyer your way around the guidelines – just understand them and try to respect the spirit in which they were created.

Just saying, perhaps the cane should be used in lieu of points on the board. However, I understand that the colossus YouTube is governed by the community, as it is a community in itself, and under the many bridges sit many trolls. So, the subtext to YT’s rules is there are no rules. We’re all responsible for doling out our brand of YouTube vigilante justice.

But now that we wear the loosely sanctioned badge we made ourselves, do we swing a sack full of door nobs at everyone, or just those we take as those worthy of the punishment? Or do we even do that? As most of us treat nasty content as we would a snake we happen to cross paths with (turn on heel, change direction, leave area), you could argue that our complicit criticism would be enough to subtly change direction. But perhaps the blame should also lie with those who print these violent snippets, those who attach the footage with towering bold letters, shouted from the rooftops – a finger which I plant in my own chest.

For my upvote, it’s far too late to try and change course on the RMS YouTube with a moral compass, but perhaps a second opinion might be the only resolve. On a personal note, watching the Karen Bailey made my blood boil. My fingers spat anger, and I was well on my way to getting my own back, beating her down with my consonants. I never finished the piece, but looking back today, I read her reasons behind the outburst. It doesn’t excuse what she did, but it fills in why she did it.

I suppose that’s something.


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