You're Wrong to Listen to Newtown Tapes

Jeffrey Kluger thinks we're all rubbernecking a tragedy
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 5, 2013 12:00 PM CST
Members of the media pick up a cd containing recordings of 911 calls from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Dec. 4, 2013, in Danbury, Conn.   (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

(Newser) – "If you're careful, you'll get through today without doing something morally monstrous." That's how Jeffrey Kluger begins his meditation on the morality of listening to the Newtown 911 tapes in Time. Yes, he allows, there are "moral lifelines" you can use to justify this voyeurism. "If we cut ourselves off from horror, if we refuse to look at it, aren't we in some ways failing to bear proper witness?" Listening could stoke righteous anger about gun laws, or stir guilt over society's complicity in the shooting.

"Nice try, but it's morally greedy," focusing on yourself rather than the victims, Kluger argues. And the victims matter. We go to the movies to feel unfamiliar emotions in a safe what-if context, and in our cameraphone culture, everything is starting to feel like a movie. But here "there wasn't any as-if about" Newtown. Those children "lost their very real lives in a very real way." We need to treat these shootings "as private tragedies, not public circuses." Besides, as Joe Coscarelli at Daily Intelligencer writes, there's a "distinct lack of new information" on the tapes, so listening to them "is little more than masochism." Click for Kluger's full column.

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