September 12, 2001
8:23 PM   Subscribe

'Oh my God they are jumping.' The British press covers the attacks with an emphasis on the people who jumped [graphic photo advisory]. I noticed the same thing watching BBC World on cable Tuesday -- is the U.S. press showing restraint with images like this?
posted by rcade (39 comments total)
because they don't want kidz thinking it's cool to jump off (out of) of buildings.

no. i'm kinda serious about this. think about it.
posted by roger-unknown at 8:31 PM on September 12, 2001

Well, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a large photo of someone falling from one of the buildings; I can't find the picture online, yet. They do have this picture, though (warning: graphic).
posted by arco at 8:32 PM on September 12, 2001

Yes, I think the U.S. mainstream press is showing "restraint" (be that good or bad). I am *not* one that wants to view gore-filled images, but I do find it interesting that the US networks seem to mainly rely on eyewitness accounts over actual video. I've seen a few seconds of falling people on CBS or ABC, but something seems sanitized about the whole US coverage. At what point should the networks show restraint? Have they shown any bodies or parts? I know that sounds a bit gruesome, but I think you bring up a good question with your post.
posted by gluechunk at 8:35 PM on September 12, 2001

I don't recall seeing any "body part" footage in the media in the NYC area (I'm writing from Jersey City, just across the river). I did see some rather graphic jumping footage on a Spanish-language news show yesterday afternoon (like everyone else, we spent the day watching news on every station possible) but I don't recall anything else like that on any other station, nor in any of today's papers.
posted by bcwinters at 8:37 PM on September 12, 2001

Nope. Page A7 of today's Times has a large, full-color photo of a guy falling headfirst.
posted by dack at 8:38 PM on September 12, 2001

Expect more graphic footage if (when?) the government and/or press decides it is time to drum up support for whatever comes next. :(
posted by rushmc at 8:40 PM on September 12, 2001

Yes, there have been a fair number of photos of falling people but video of jumping has been rare (on US networks, at least). To me, the video is a bit more horrifying than a still image of someone stopped in time.
posted by gluechunk at 8:42 PM on September 12, 2001

I've seen the video of a person falling once thus far...and various images here and there, including of bloodied people. yet, I've seen the plane hitting the building many, many times from many, many angles.

I don't know what footage is worse.
posted by mkn at 8:47 PM on September 12, 2001

BBC World and another BBC channel that was simulcast briefly on C-Span2 yesterday both showed video of jumpers. It's incredibly grim.
posted by rcade at 8:53 PM on September 12, 2001

They truly need to stop broadcasting photos like these so widely. And they need to stop repeating clips of the crashes so frequently. It cheapens it all, it upsets us all, and it gives the distasteful opportunities to broadcast their distastefulness.
posted by prozaction at 8:53 PM on September 12, 2001

I haven't seen any video yet, and I think I'm glad of that.

It's bad enough to know about it. I don't have a problem with people running video, no matter how gory, but I don't particularly need to see it, either.

posted by Mars Saxman at 9:02 PM on September 12, 2001

I don't know. Something as horrific as this shouldn't be cleaned up for home consumption. We need to be reminded how terrible this is before it becomes just an uncomfortable memory. That being said, I don't want to see one of those videos again any time soon.
posted by jaustinspace at 9:06 PM on September 12, 2001

I had two friends down there when it all happened, the planes didn't bother them, while the collapses were terrifying... it was the bodies smashing on the street that f*cked them up.

I noticed that the BBC focused more on the "jumping" than CNN did... perhaps BBC took on a more "humanistic" angle where CNN went for the more "spectacular footage" of the crashes and the collapse.

A few years back, a friend of my wife's was shot, and her body burned, and the Daily News ran the photo of her charred corpse. I remember the reaction of her family and their pain seeing it (which the Daily News quickly printed an apology to them).

At work (urge to self-link supressed), I had access to every photo the Associated Press took... I chose not to post any jumpers on the site, with that in mind...

The last thing I'd want for any child is to have a memory of their father plummeting to his death.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 9:13 PM on September 12, 2001

I'm going to have to somewhat critize the media for cleaning up the image. It's one thing to see a cold, distant building crumble and another to see humans struggle for life. While I believe everyone right now has the message, will people still feel the horror a hundred years from now? I hope they have archival footage they aren't showing us. What impacted you more about the Holocaust? Numbers on a page? Concentration camp photos? Or was it the skeletons walking around in the End of Days?
posted by geoff. at 9:14 PM on September 12, 2001

People falling and/or jumping from a building have pretty much lost the struggle with life. There's no point in fighting then, the end and the result are inevitable.

The reality is apparent even know as a fire still burns behind the talking head of Tom Brokaw, as the footage of firefighters digging through rubble is aired and re-aired on every other news channel. The reality is inherent in the myriad photos that have been published of the buildings being struck, engulfed in flame and crumbling to the ground. We know thathe people have died, we know that the people fell, either in or outside of the buildings. I worry about anyone who needs to see photos of people plummeting to their demise to make it more "real."
posted by Dreama at 9:25 PM on September 12, 2001

i agree with jaustinspace. we need to look the reality of it straight in the eye.
posted by quonsar at 9:51 PM on September 12, 2001

we need to look the reality of it straight in the eye.

but not ad absurdum.
posted by prozaction at 9:56 PM on September 12, 2001

In Seattle we catch the CBC. They had probably the most gut wrenching chronology I'd seen yet, complete with the training on a falling jumper. Rex Murphy contributed a commentary on "The National" which was particularly profound and well worth a read. If, of course, you care what a prominent Canadian thinks.
posted by crasspastor at 10:04 PM on September 12, 2001

The Spanish TV stations here were also repeatedly showing footage of people jumping, while CNN and the like chose not to for the most part. Perhaps it was a choice to repress the worst images, though it may lessen the impact of the situation somewhat.

On a side note.. In a write-up by an NYU professor not far from the WTC (included in this person's journal), there's a description of how many of the people jumping did so in pairs, holding hands as they leapt, as if doing it with someone else was more comforting than going alone..
posted by valerie at 10:14 PM on September 12, 2001

I've seen these videos and photos all over the US media, a LOT. There's a photo in USA Today that shows a couple of dozen people hanging out the windows. This is an unfathomable concept in itself to anyone that has ever been inside that gigantic building, so it's almost certain that every single one of them was preparing to jump.

It helps to keep in mind that they were all truly and utterly doomed, and were not making rash panic decisions. They were jumping because of the heat, which was over 1000 degrees. And that extreme heat is what caused the steel to buckle, and finally cause the towers to pancake and collapse, which would have killed them all anyway.
posted by aaron at 10:25 PM on September 12, 2001

The only footage of falling bodies I have seen was between the fall of the two towers. The channel I was watching (CNBC) was showing live footage and, well, it's hard to edit live footage.

Imagine if you will, waking up and turning on the tv and saying "That building is on fire! Say, that skyline looks like NYC, but where's the other tower?" Then you hear Mark Haines, normal voice of reason (who by the way was supposed to be off the air 5 minutes ago), say "What the people on the ground looking up at the flaming building do not realize is that the other tower is GONE." I was trying to get a cup of coffee when the second tower fell. To the best of my knowledge I do not know anyone that was there. That does not change the fact that this sucks.

I am simultaneously nauseated and fixated by the media vultures filming every moment, lest something happen while they are not looking.
posted by ilsa at 10:34 PM on September 12, 2001

All I know is that I saw footage yesterday of a man falling to his death - the camera was far enough away that he was just a dot... but you could see his legs kicking and the horrific speed he was falling at....

I can't get this image out of my head - out of all of the carnage of yesterday, this is the most horrifying to me. Perhaps it's just the desensitisation of Hollywood disaster movies kicking in (and my relative distance from the disaster - I'm in Canada), but as horrified as I am when I see the plane hitting... it's the jumping that I can't handle. I think I'm going to leave this thread and not come back - the images that were linked to here were just too much to handle.
posted by theNonsuch at 10:37 PM on September 12, 2001

One reporter 'on the ground' mentioned that 'there were things he couldn't talk about on TV' refering to the body parts left from the collapse.

Somewhere months or years back I came across a picture of a body that had supposedly fallen from a great height. It was accompanied by much discussion whether it was real or not. It was a horrific and ghastly sight that has come back to my mind time and again as I think of those people that lept. I've also heard mention of a fireman who's partner or friend was killed right next to him by someone who jumped and landed on him.

There is some nasty footage being left on editing room floors, that is for sure.

So what is worse? The slightly abstract sight of a plane slamming into a building or the very real and personal sight of someone plummeting to their death? Hundreds of lives all at once or lives one by one?
posted by mutagen at 10:42 PM on September 12, 2001

I, personally, don't see the point in video or still imagery of people jumping from the buildings. Aren't the words "people were jumping from the building" enough? Can't we invent much more horific imagery in our mind's eye?
posted by dgeiser13 at 11:38 PM on September 12, 2001

My heart cries. The sight of people forced to leap and doing so hand in hand are some of the most powerful images i've ever seen. Images which are tied in my mind to thoughts of the awful ratios of emergency services angels who died trying to save them.
posted by Kino at 11:48 PM on September 12, 2001

It's not that the US press is showing restraint as much as simply following social rules. We generally avoid death if at all possible, and if not then it gets sanitized. A large portion of the rest of the world doesn't go so far with this.

When people die, they don't just close their eyes, like in the movies. Likewise, when someone jumps out of a building, they're not just going to hit the ground or a car, yet somehow how have a single cut on their body. I'll skip the messy facts; go find them yourselves.

The fact the networks won't show these things is a quiet concession, contrary to what some parent groups would like us to think, that people really do understand the difference between what's real(the news) and what's fake(Die Hard).
posted by Su at 2:45 AM on September 13, 2001

This is a disturbing thought... in reacting to how some of you have mentioned the desensitization a lot of people felt from the "Hollywoodization" of violence and disaster...

Can you just IMAGINE 50 years from now (less?), Hollywood turning back time and making a blockbuster feature film out of all of this?

I mean, we just spent a summer having to sit through the ultra-romanticized "Pearl Harbor" and before that "Titanic" and "Saving Private Ryan." When will the trauma subside enough for Hollywood to bare its teeth and dig in, artistic license in hand? By that time, the whole irony of the observations I've read on this site regarding that voyeristic, surreal quality of the news footage will come full circle. The perceived simulacrum of the footage will give rise to "true" simulacrum. Funky.

I swear, I could hear the licking of lips somewhere in southern California. Am I too cynical?
posted by crunchybird at 3:29 AM on September 13, 2001

I'm a bit concerned over the lack of attention given to the downed plane near pittsburgh.

As of yet I have not first-hand heard anything as to why it went down.

I am sure I initially heard it had been shot down, which makes perfect sense, but am now concerned that if this did happen, news agencies have been hushed from reporting this. America need not blame themselves for this action if it was the case. Surely?
posted by Frasermoo at 5:24 AM on September 13, 2001

Today's New York Times mentions that the passengers on the Pittsburgh plane were told, in cel phone calls to loved ones, about the attacks on the World Trade Center. It appears that they rushed the terrorists, somehow preventing them from flying the plane to its target.
posted by rcade at 6:13 AM on September 13, 2001

Last night on FoxNews, they interviewed a doctor volunteering at the scene. He said that what he saw on TV looked nothing like what he saw in person. He said the cameras needed to come in closer, so that people could begin to understand the true horror. If the horror I feel now isn't true, I'm not sure I want to know what true is.
posted by donnagirl at 7:03 AM on September 13, 2001

Frasermoo -- there have been plenty of eyewitness reports of the PA plane nosediving into the ground, no evidence whatsoever of it being shot down (even though it was trailed by an F-16).

As rcade points out, there are also now several reports of passengers on that plane making cell phone calls and saying they intended to resist the hijackers.

The instant I saw the first tower collapse, I knew there would be thousands of dead. I didn't need to see pictures to know that. The news organizations do have the responsibility to document things, but they are also supposed to exercise judgment about what they choose to show. Showing the people hanging out the windows and plummeting to the ground is arresting and dramatic, to be sure, but completely unnecessary.
posted by briank at 7:47 AM on September 13, 2001

crunchy's probably right. actually it made me think of when I went to go see Titanic shortly after it opened (hey, shut up, it was Kate Winslet)... my immediate reaction after walking out of the theatre was 'they never should have made this movie'. because if you can ignore the schmaltzy, improbable love scenes and Celine Dion's yowling, the bottom line is that all that happened to real people.

but even so. crunchy's probably right.
posted by Sapphireblue at 8:25 AM on September 13, 2001

"(even though it was trailed by an F-16)."

Out of curiosity, where did you find this clip of information?

I've heard a lot of people mention the conspiracy of a military plane shooting down the jet, logistically, I think, that theory is far-fetched. Even finding the plane amongst the hundreds of flights in the air would be a challenge, given it's transponder was switched off, the very little time to scramble verify it's the right target, and the decision to take such an action.

(apologies for being off-topic)
posted by MJoachim at 8:27 AM on September 13, 2001

By coincidence, the editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was visiting my Information Ethics class this morning, and we asked him about running pictures of people falling from the buildings. His response was, in essense, that this was part of the story: people did jump from the building, and the pictures only reflect that fact.

I will give him this: they could have run many pictures much more explicit and gruesome than the one they did (of a man falling head-first), but they only ran that one, in the print edition I saw, at least. I asked him about running more explicit photos (of charred bodies, for example), and he said that he probably would not do that unless is reflected a vital part of the story that needed to be told.
posted by arco at 10:10 AM on September 13, 2001

"(even though it was trailed by an F-16)."

Out of curiosity, where did you find this clip of information?

Reported on here. It's buried deep in the story, so read the whole thing.
posted by briank at 10:27 AM on September 13, 2001

Briank, thanks for the link, it's quite incredible.
posted by MJoachim at 10:58 AM on September 13, 2001

Truth should not be filtered by others. Everyone is entitled to filter how much they take in themselves. But once others start doing it FOR you, it empowers them to play to their agendas. This, in some ways, correlates to the "eating a cat" thread. Not looking at something does not make it go away, does not make it any less real. It only means that you haven't seen it.

Of course, it goes without saying that there comes a point of diminishing returns where there is no sense in subjecting yourself to it any further, as there is nothing more to be gained in understanding. And that point may well be different for different people.

We shy away from death too much in this society. We pretty it up, hide it, hide FROM it--some people can't even SAY it, choosing instead euphemisms like "passed" or "went away" rather than "died." People who live in cultures with more direct, regular experience of death (and this can be simply farming communities where people butcher their own meals) tend to fear it less and understand it better (though not, I am sure, regret it any less).
posted by rushmc at 1:48 PM on September 13, 2001

Folks outside of the USA should understand that the BBC is in a desperate ratings (and philosophical) war with the commercial offerings (Brits need to purchase a $200 licence annually to own a TV set, which funds the BBC's operations). They have been dumbing-down for some time now - this is the outfit that gave the world The Weakest Link. So they now exploit a principle that all tabloids know well - (other people's) misery sells.
posted by RichLyon at 1:14 AM on September 15, 2001

well, in defence of the BBC, they produce the worlds best documentaries and when they DO get the rights to a sporting event, they cover it better than anyone.

The jumping wasn't nice, but those two towers that collapsed...they didn't contain crash dummies.
posted by Frasermoo at 9:26 AM on September 17, 2001

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