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Thursday, March 30, 2023

To look at or to not watch? Berkeley professional’s tips about viewing graphic video

Violent movies, such because the one launched as we speak by Memphis regulation enforcement of Tyre Nichols being brutally overwhelmed by cops, must be seen, if in any respect, with care, says Alexa Koenig, a college professional on psychological trauma and resiliency. (iStock photograph)

A video was launched as we speak by Memphis, Tennessee, regulation enforcement officers that exhibits police severely beating Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, after a Jan. 7 visitors cease. He died three days later.

Alexa Koenig is co-director of Berkeley Regulation’s Human Rights Heart, which investigates battle crimes and different severe violations of human rights with modern applied sciences and scientific developments. Her experience consists of trauma and resiliency in human rights work, and he or she co-founded the Human Rights Heart Investigations Lab, the place college students are skilled to mine movies on social media for suspected human rights violations or battle crimes — and the way to take action safely, each by way of psychosocial safety and cybersecurity.

Berkeley Information spoke with Koenig in regards to the function video performs in police brutality instances and the way issues have modified because the video of George Floyd’s homicide in police custody on Could 25, 2020, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She additionally provided recommendations for safely viewing traumatic movies on-line. 

Her e book, Graphic: Trauma and Which means in Our On-line Lives, co-authored with Andrea Lampros, a Human Rights Heart analysis fellow and communications director on the Berkeley College of Schooling, can be out in June from Cambridge College Press.


Alexa Koenig is co-director of the Human Rights Heart at Berkeley Regulation. (Photograph by Brittany Hosea-Small)

Berkeley Information: It’s been two-plus years because the homicide of George Floyd and the video that served as a catalyst for social actions. What are you fascinated about at this second, and the place we’re societally, as we anticipate viewing one other traumatic video of police violence?

Alexa Koenig: What I’m fascinated about is how, inside our communities and as a broader nationwide group, we’re each uncooked and more and more numb, even earlier than we witness this. And I believe having that as a baseline is a problem for any society. 

We’re beneath extraordinary stress, given the pandemic we’ve all been dwelling by way of and making an attempt to determine this new time that we’re all in. That cumulative stress that we’ve got all collectively been experiencing during the last couple of years has left us in a spot the place we’re already typically feeling at our max. Every time you might be already in a really pressured and depleted place, to have a video like this come out that displays a few of the worst issues that human beings can do to one another, from what I’ve heard about that video, we’re already not in an ideal place to have the ability to course of and to deal with the emotional onslaught that rightfully all of us really feel once we see one thing that’s such a grave injustice. 

One of many issues that we’ve been studying in our e book is a few of the ways in which individuals can deal with themselves, their households and their communities, whereas ideally additionally coping with the social injustice of an incident like this. One among our large targets as human rights practitioners at Berkeley Regulation is to suppose by way of, “How will we ensure that individuals don’t simply flip away from the painful issues which can be occurring in our world however are literally partaking with it and continually striving to make the world higher for many who are struggling essentially the most?” and doing that on the similar time that we defend ourselves, in order that we’ve got the resilience and the fortitude to have the ability to proceed that combat. 

When these sorts of movies come out, they take a psychological toll. And I believe that toll can both be constructive or damaging. The query turns into actually how can we be aware of the ways in which we will prioritize the previous and reduce the latter? 

Students at UC Berkeley's Human Rights Center Investigations Lab sit at a round table, their laptops open, discussing their work.

Resiliency strategies used at Berkeley’s Human Rights Heart Investigations Lab, the place college students typically view citizen movies that embody graphic imagery from battle zones around the globe, embody taking common breaks from work — to scale back stress and publicity to troubling materials — and reflecting on the which means of their work, to remain motivated. (Photograph by Andrea Lampros)

Your forthcoming e book delves into your workforce’s work with the Human Rights Investigations Lab and consists of coping methods for viewing trauma around the globe. What methods have you ever discovered that we’d all profit from?

I believe there are some things that we realized which can be vital for individuals to suppose by way of as they gear as much as watch a video just like the one which we all know is coming.

The primary half is having consciousness of your self and your baseline functioning. So for a one-off horrific video, this might not be fairly as related. However for people who find themselves watching graphic movies repeatedly, or who’re working in social justice and will come throughout numerous these movies, simply realizing the way you often sleep, how a lot you eat, how a lot you’re employed out could be useful. After which actually monitoring if, after watching a video like this, or a number of movies, or studying the information, you begin to slip. That may be an indication that you simply’re starting to be negatively affected in your resilience and your skill to course of this data. 

A second factor is consciousness of what significantly impacts you and what significantly impacts the individuals round you. Whereas we’re all affected by violent graphic imagery biologically in very related methods, the psychological aspect of it’s impacted by our private experiences and identities. 

For instance, in case you are somebody who has been harassed or overwhelmed by police, you could have a really totally different relationship to the video we’re about to collectively witness than somebody who has by no means had a adverse interplay with the police. It might probably simply retrigger your personal experiences of trauma. On the one hand, you might discover that watching it truly brings you nearer in solidarity to others who’ve skilled violations like that. However for many individuals, it might carry again recollections which can be very laborious to course of over the weekend. 

Understanding and having the attention of what you are able to do to revive your self may help individuals keep away from a few of the extra adverse numbing behaviors, like consuming quite a bit, utilizing medicine, sleeping quite a bit, versus the issues that carry you form of a more healthy sense of delight, like speaking with different individuals or going for hikes and being outdoors.

A webpage from a website called Rated R lists tips for how to watch graphic videos more safely. A graphic of a woman holding a megaphone is next to the tips.

A webpage from Rated R, a web site created by Berkeley alumnae skilled on the Human Rights Heart Investigations Lab, provides safer viewing ideas for making ready to look at probably distressing information movies on social media. (Picture by Pearlé Nwaezeigwe)

Due to the toxicity of the cruelty, we typically consider that publicity as just like publicity to poisonous waste. Which a part of your private home do you not need contaminated, or your office, while you see this? What are the areas that it’s worthwhile to safeguard? I’d not suggest individuals watch this video whereas scrolling mindlessly on their cellphone in mattress or on their laptop computer or late at night time. The very best follow for individuals who do that professionally is to take a seat at a desk. You need to view it someplace that you simply really feel such as you’re in nearly an expert or analytical capability, and are ready. You’re taking a deep breath earlier than watching it. After which watch it intentionally and deliberately in that area. 

We additionally know a way of shock is usually a powerful one. Ideally, when you see the video on YouTube, for instance, you may scroll thumbnails and get a way of what you’re about to see with out having the complete resonance of the audio being loud and the video being giant. We all know that making ready your mind for what comes subsequent is usually a protecting ingredient, so that you’re eliminating that facet of shock. 

And numerous professionals will truly watch the video first with the hold forth or the sound down.  Neuroscientists have proven that a lot of the emotive content material is within the auditory part of a video. It’s within the individual’s pleading for his or her life or the mom screaming for his or her baby. That’s what will get beneath our pores and skin and is commonly very tough to shake. So don’t play it as loud as you may. Ideally, don’t watch it on full display or on a big display TV. Carry it right down to extra of a human scale, or smaller, in order that you’ll be able to course of that a little bit extra successfully. 

The opposite factor to consider is the individuals that you simply would possibly share the video with. So let’s say you’ve watched it, and also you need to carry better consciousness to what occurred. Whenever you’re sharing one thing like this, it’s vital to not simply share it mindlessly, like, “You’ve bought to see this!” it will probably assist the recipient to truly say to the individual, “You’ve bought to see this video, it’s of X, Y and Z. It’s a person being overwhelmed by 5 cops. It’s fairly graphic.” That can a minimum of permit that individual to make a acutely aware alternative about when, the place and even whether or not they need to watch the video within the first place. 

A whole lot of the those that we’ve got interviewed have stated that they selected to not watch the video of George Floyd’s killing for an entire host of causes, despite the fact that they’re individuals who care deeply about social justice. A few of them stated they didn’t must see one other killing of a Black man to know that violence towards Black populations may be very actual in our nation. They usually felt that it was nearly exploitive to take action. Some individuals have talked about “battle porn” within the context of watching battle movies, that it was nearly exploitive to look at Floyd be killed in such a brutal means. 

Generally giving your self permission to not watch, or to learn solely secondhand supplies or expertise extra packaged reporting, versus the uncooked, full video itself, is usually a means to make sure you’re nonetheless knowledgeable, whilst you defend your self.

RowVaughn Wells, the mother of Tyre Nichols, a man beaten by Memphis police who died on Jan. 25, 2023, is surrounded by people holding candles in the dark. She is wearing warm clothes.

RowVaughn Wells, mom of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old man who died Jan. 10, 2023, after being overwhelmed by Memphis cops, smiles at supporters on the conclusion of a candlelight vigil for her son. (AP photograph by Gerald Herbert)

Do you suppose the video of the homicide of George Floyd modified the paradigm of on-camera police violence? And to that finish, do you suppose psychologically we’re in a special area now to view one thing like this then perhaps we had been three years in the past?

Completely. In a number of other ways. 

One, I believe we’re in all probability extra more likely to come throughout movies like this. There’s such a proliferation of how to entry digital materials that we come upon this stuff, even once we’re not actively searching for them out. One factor that I’d suggest for lots of people who use social media is to show off autoplay on your entire platforms, when you don’t need to be shocked by significantly graphic materials nowadays and need to make acutely aware choices about what you view and when and the way you view it. 

The world has shifted to on-line witnessing of a lot data, significantly throughout the shutdown of the pandemic, that as we see these movies come out one after the opposite, it’s simple to lose our sense of collective hope for change. That may result in this type of mass melancholy. It can also really feel like this stuff are out of our management, and there’s nothing that we will do. And that may result in a collective sense of hysteria that may actually start to intervene in numerous elements of our lives that aren’t straight associated to social justice or on-line witnessing. 

One job is to consider how we retain hope or generate hope. Can we see little wins in the truth that we’re all condemning this video? That there’s widespread condemnation of it? That there are rising requires reform? 

After which, on the management aspect, how can we contribute to these fights for reform — whether or not it’s taking part in nonviolent protest, or it’s writing to a congressperson, or it’s educating others in our communities in regards to the methods we could take motion, or brainstorming that motion, educating ourselves the place we’ve got gaps in our personal data of sure experiences. After which actually fascinated about what our duty is to assist to handle tragedies like these and assist to reduce their frequency.

Students in UC Berkeley's Human Right Investigations Lab participate through the Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program.

Vicarious, or secondary, trauma is oblique publicity to a horrifying occasion that may trigger emotional, behavioral, physiological, cognitive and non secular signs resembling grief, nervousness, nightmares, negativity, cynicism, substance abuse, bodily ache and lack of hope and function. (Photograph by Monica Haulman)

Given the legal case in Memphis and the obvious function that video has performed and would possibly play within the close to future, what are you fascinated about by way of the prosecution, and the ways in which video contributes to such a case?

A few issues. On the extra overarching stage is the lengthy historical past of the ways in which graphic imagery has typically helped spark social change. So going again to a few of the slavery photos that come out of the Civil Warfare and the beating of former slaves, to Emmett Until, who was killed within the South within the Fifties, to Rodney King, up by way of a few of the stuff that we’ve seen with Abu Ghraib. We’ve bought Vietnam. Ukraine has been one other area the place visible witnessing has led to worldwide outrage. 

This video, from the sounds of it, goes to take its personal place in that lengthy historical past. However I believe the introduction of video within the courtroom can be a really optimistic improvement. There was numerous room earlier than movies like these for there to be a “he stated, he stated” or “he stated, she stated” phenomena. However witnesses could be fallible of their reminiscence, and they are often discredited, and so they can finally be painted in a adverse gentle. It’s useful to have data that corroborates their testimony.

All of us belief what we see with our eyes. So having one thing so visible, related to the resonance of the auditory materials, means that we are going to have a special emotional connection to the testimony than we’d in any other case. 

Do you propose to look at the video? Why or why not?

I do plan to look at the video. In my place as co-director of the Human Rights Heart and as somebody who supervises each college students and professionals who’re more likely to see the video, it’s vital that I do know what they’ve skilled in order that I can help them — in addition to help the broader social justice group that’s responding and can proceed to reply to atrocities like these. However I’ll watch the video at my desk, with the sound comparatively low, ideally whereas there’s nonetheless daylight. And I’ll take the time to course of what I’ve watched and take into consideration my duty to take motion, and the way I can achieve this in ways in which have optimistic impression, acknowledging that I’ve simply witnessed the brutal beating of a fellow human being — not simply transfer on to the subsequent factor in my social media feed as if nothing vital has occurred.

What haven’t we mentioned right here as we speak that you simply need to convey to the general public?

Simply that I’m so sorry that we’re right here once more and about to witness one other video like this one. And I hope that we will all take a deep breath and suppose strategically and punctiliously about how we honor the reminiscence of Tyre Nichols, and the way we will take some optimistic steps ahead.

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