Monday 21 October 2013

I don’t like bullying of any nature and I wouldn’t want to make light of it. And I am not saying that The Independent is consciously undermining the notion of cyberbullying, it would be a ridiculous notion as the story is clearly highlighting the issue, but I don’t think the result is not to undermine the severity with the use of the image below.

CaptureThe use of a an image to represent a larger meaning is not uncommon in journalism. In fact it’s standard practice to represent the evils of many with the image of an individual or group; it’s easy to show one racist idiot at a football game and weave a narrative that all football fans are like this (for example).

But that is journalism. Is this journalism? This is the kind of image I would expect to be part of a 1991 Grange Hill campaign against cyber bullying. This would rely on the storylines of a pre-Brip Pop school-based children’s drama to be extremely prescient admittedly. I was, as you know, suggesting the above image is overly simplistic and looks dated. [I am pretty sure Grange Hill is no longer with us but I feel safe in assuming that were it still with us that cyberbullying storylines would form a prominent part of the show’s storylines. If Grange Hill were still with us and accurate, which of course it always was, surely episodes would just consist of people stood next to each other texting each other.]

Back to the image. Does it really need to be so dramatic? The text does the job, this is not a story that needs an image. And this isn’t an image that serves the text. The boy with his head in his hands…the aggressive shadows. The presence of a computer screen is barely visible. Surely some kind of image of a Facebook screen with text sayig “u r dead for being a bad shit head” would help visualise the text.

This image is just shit. Is he about to be sextacked by a trio of angry shadows? Is his own shadow rampantly refusing to obey shadow etiquette and accurately represent his shape – choosing instead to become three vague figures standing up? Is he playing hide and seek with three unimaginative friends who think hiding behind a canvas screen with a lamp behind them a good place to hide? Are these three mysterious shadow figures his shamen looking on concerned while the aggression is on the screen?

My preferred reading of the image is that the victim of the cyber bullying is the shadow on the reader’s left of the trio. Let’s call him Rhys. The chap at the computer (Vinny) is actually the bully and his reaction to his own evil is to hold his head with (evil) pride. But Rhys is only visible because he is on a large poster on Vinny’s wall is his favourite band (Vulture Sculpture) and Rhys is the guitarist.

Vinny has no idea the man he is cyberbullying (activities: saying his Amazon review are unhelpful and adding comments to the – actually helpful – reviews saying things like “bad review again”) is the guitarist in his favourite band. The irony will be that the misery the bullying causes will lead to some heartfelt music that is the best of Vulture Sculpture’s career and will lead them on to levels of success. The irony succumbs to justice, of sorts, as Vinny doesn’t like all the new fans the success brings and their popularity ultimately means he ceases to be a fan of the band. Justice.

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