Should outrageous behaviour be filmed or challenged?

Posted on October 25, 2018

 

Budget airline Ryanair has found itself under fire due to a video of a man on a flight who appears to launch a racist attack on an elderly black passenger, demanding her to be moved to another seat.

The video has understandably sparked criticism of the man himself, but also of the airline for not only failing to remove the aggressive man from the flight, but instead choosing to relocate the 77-year-old woman on the receiving end of the abuse to a different seat.

However, what has also shocked many people is that very few people appear to challenge the aggressor. A man sitting behind him can be seen telling him to calm down, and a male voice can be heard calling for the argumentative passenger to be removed, but most other passengers appear to be ignoring the incident.

The video, which contains swearing and racist language, was filmed by passenger David Lawrence and shared on Facebook.

His post includes a petition to boycott the airline over its poor handling of the incident, but can Lawrence himself be criticised? After all, rather than do his bit to break up the fracas, his actions mean that a dispute between two parties has now made international news and been seen by millions of people. The abuse of the elderly woman has been broadcast around the world, and while the man’s behaviour is inexcusable, is it entirely fair that the video leads us to make a judgment on him without us seeing what prompted the argument?

It’s surprising to many that for some people, their instinctive reaction when they see something shocking is not to help or intervene, but to film it on their phones and later upload it to social media. During the summer, Swedish police were furious at people who made an obstacle of themselves by filming the attempted rescue of a boy who had drowned. It does seem that an alarming number of people all over the world are quicker to use the camera on their phone than the keypad to phone the emergency services.

In Lawrence’s case though, the case is clearly different, it could be argued that highlighting this case does a better job of raising awareness about racial injustice and issues with Ryanair’s incident handling than getting involved himself would have. With around 2,000 people having signed his petition, it shows that people are concerned enough by what they saw to avoid travelling with the airline, which has refused to comment on the incident as it is now a police matter.

As we’ve mentioned in a previous blog, nothing gets a problem solved as quickly as bringing it up on social media.

There is also a point to be made that in a confined space like an aeroplane, confronting a boisterous passenger may do more harm than good. Fighting fire with fire may actually be giving a troublemaker exactly what they want, and many argue that a better tactic than getting in a shouting match with an abusive individual is to show support for the victim by sitting with them and making sure they are OK. One would hope somebody on the plane did that once the incident had died down.

It’s a tough one, but Lawrence’s video is probably a force for good on the whole, as it makes a spectacle of several important issues. Two issues it raises though are that people should always think about whether turning their phone camera on is the most helpful course of action, and also how the dynamics of what is reported in the news have changed in the social media era. What was once an incident that hardly anyone outside of that plane would have known about is today a major talking point far and wide.

John Murray

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.

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