Moraliseringen af seeren


  • Lilie Chouliaraki



Lilie Chouliaraki: The Moralisation of the Spectator. On the September 11th live footage In this paper, I discuss extracts of the September 11th live footage on television from the vantage point of discourse, that is of how the reported event “comes to mean“, how it becomes intelligible through television’s meaning-making operations. Specifically, I study the mediation of the September 11th as a mediation of “distant suffering“, drawing upon the work of Luc Boltanski (1999) on “morality, media and politics“. My aim is to identify the ways in which the September 11th television spectacle engages the affective potential of the spectator and evokes a specific disposition to act upon the suffering – that is, to act politically. My perspective on the September 11th thus concerns the televisual mediation of distant suffering and its moralising effects on the spectator. First, I introduce the problematic of representing distant suffering in terms of, what Boltanski calls, a “politics of pity“ – a politics that aims to resolve the Spacetime dimensions of mediation in order to establish a sense of “proximity“ to the events and, so, engage the spectator emotionally and ethically. Second, I contrast three different modes (or “topics“) of representing suffering, by reference to three live footage extracts from the Danish national television channel (DR): street shots of Manhattan, just after the Twin Towers’ collapse; the summary of the day events, with shots from the second plane collision and President Bush’s first public statement; a long shot of the Manhattan skyline burning. I describe each “topic“ in terms of its Spacetime dimensions, its distinctive semiotic elements, and the affective mode and moral horizon it opens up for the spectator. In concluding, I briefly touch upon implications for the “moralisation“ of the spectator, involved in the September 11th “topics“ of suffering.