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World “Empathetic hedonism”: why we were so glued to the Thai cave drama

00:31  12 july  2018
00:31  12 july  2018 Source:   vox.com

Elon Musk has offered to help rescue the Thai soccer team stuck in a cave

  Elon Musk has offered to help rescue the Thai soccer team stuck in a cave Elon Musk has said he is "happy to help" if there's anything he can contribute to the rescue mission of a Thai soccer team from a cave.  Elon Musk has said he is "happy to help" with the rescue of the Thai soccer team currently stuck in a cave.

A sociologist explains why we make spectacle out of trauma like the Thai cave boys. The basic question I wanted to ask him: Why do we get so glued to watching human trauma and drama unfold on TV? How should we think through the morality of empathetic hedonism ?

A sociologist explains " empathetic hedonism ," a reason why we ’re drawn to harrowing human stories. The basic question I wanted to ask him: Why do we get so glued to watching human trauma and drama unfold on TV? And is it okay if we tune in?

a group of people on a cave: Thai soldiers relay electric cable deep into the Tham Luang cave.© Provided by Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP/Getty Images Thai soldiers relay electric cable deep into the Tham Luang cave. Is it okay to make a spectacle out of trauma?

This week, the saga of the 12 Thai boys trapped in a flooded cave came to a miraculous conclusion. After more than two weeks stuck in a dark, flooded cave, all 12 boys, ages 11 to 16, and their coach, are safe.

It wasn’t a perfect happy ending, though. One Thai Navy SEAL died during the rescue operation. And it’s unknown what lasting harm has been done to the boys’ physical or mental health.

Throughout the saga, people around the world were gripped by the story. And TV networks devoted a sizable amount of their airtime to the story, as revealed in this analysis by Vox’s Alvin Chang.

'He’s the one I trust': Coach praised as 'real hero' in Thai cave saga

  'He’s the one I trust': Coach praised as 'real hero' in Thai cave saga As parents implore people not to blame the soccer coach who accompanied 12 boys into a cave, one of his former players has heaped praise on the 25-year-old.Tham Luang: A close friend of some of the Thai soccer players trapped in the Tham Luang cave has declared the “real hero” of the saga that has riveted Thailand and gripped the world is the team’s coach, 25-year-old Ekaphol "Ake" Chantawong.

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“ We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what. All the thirteen Wild Boars are now out of the cave ,” the Thai Navy SEALs said on their Facebook page on Tuesday after the mission was complete. “ Empathetic hedonism ”: why we were so glued to the Thai cave drama .

a close up of text on a white background© Provided by Vox Media, Inc.

I was probably not alone in feeling a bit uneasy about all the interest.

We were fixating on what was very likely a traumatic experience for these young people, turning it into round-the-clock entertainment. I now feel anxious for these boys, who are unwitting celebrities, worried that the attention still to come will exacerbate whatever trauma they underwent in the dark.

I also felt uneasy because of a frustrating bias in humans. We tend to care more about dramatic tragedies that strike a relatively small number of people, and grow numb to the slow, ongoing horrors that inflict millions. Twelve boys were trapped in a cave, yes. But there are millions of children living in war zones.

Healthy and demanding fried rice: first boys rescued from Thai cave in hospital

  Healthy and demanding fried rice: first boys rescued from Thai cave in hospital The first four boys rescued from a flooded cave in northern Thailand were in good health and demanding fried rice in hospital on Monday, the head of the rescue team said, as divers resumed operations to bring out the remaining members of the group. The bid to rescue the boys - aged between 11 and 16 - and their 25-year-old soccer coach got going again after a break late on Sunday to replenish the team's oxygen supplies and make other preparations deep inside the cave.

This week, the saga of the 12 Thai boys trapped in a flooded cave came to a miraculous conclusion. And it’s unknown what lasting harm has been done to the boys’ physical or mental health. Throughout the saga, people around the world were gripped by the story.

People around the world were gripped by the saga of the 12 Thai boys trapped in a flooded cave . A sociologist explains why we get so glued to watching human trauma unfold on TV.

Certainly there are children all around the world trapped in scary situations who desperately need help. Where’s the round-the-clock news cycle for them?

On the other hand: “The boys in the cave” was an obviously compelling story. It’s filled with the elements that make for great dramas. It’s showing the best in people, the best in rescue workers, who risked their lives to save the team. The rescue operation was an impressive international collaboration; it’s a story that makes you feel proud of the resilience of humans, the generosity of strangers, and the can-do attitude of a community in crisis.

To help sort through these conflicting feelings, I called up Tim Recuber. He’s a sociologist at Smith College who studies, and has published a book on, how American media respond to crisis, death, and disaster. The basic question I wanted to ask him: Why do we get so glued to watching human trauma and drama unfold on TV? And is it okay if we tune in?

Some of the same divers who pulled the first 4 boys out of the Thai cave went back to rescue the 2nd group of 4 — traversing 10 miles to do so

  Some of the same divers who pulled the first 4 boys out of the Thai cave went back to rescue the 2nd group of 4 — traversing 10 miles to do so Rescuers have evacuated eight boys from a cave in northern Thailand after divers to guide the boys over two miles back to the cave's entrance. Some divers rescuing the boys trapped in a cave in northern Thailand have traversed about 10 miles over the past two days.

Is it okay to make a spectacle out of trauma?

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This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Brian Resnick

You use a really intriguing term to describe the appeal of watching disasters (and potential disasters) — “empathetic hedonism.” What is it, and why is it a motivating factor keeping people glued to their TVs for disaster or trauma coverage?

Tim Recuber

There’s a certain kind of pleasure in really feeling for someone else, even if those feeling are bad. That’s what that term is trying to name.

In a culture that tries to venerate empathy, being able to say, “I saw that footage, it’s really horrible, I feel horrible for those kids” ... it does mark you as a moral person. That tends to be valuable today [to be seen as] an empathetic person. People get to demonstrate they have this ability.

Brian Resnick

So it’s empathetic in the sense that we grow attached to narratives. There’s human emotions involved, and we can imagine what it might feel like to be trapped in a cave. But it’s hedonistic because we enjoy watching these things, sharing these things, talking about them?

Tim Recuber

Yeah. And you never can fully do it. I can convince myself that I can understand what someone else went through. But I don’t really know that’s the case. So there’s always a sense you can always learn more, always watch more coverage.

Thai coach will be last out, may be left alone in cave

  Thai coach will be last out, may be left alone in cave He'll be completely isolated if diving teams stick with their current system.Ekaphol Chanthawong, 25, will be left completely alone in the Tham Luang cave if diving teams continue their system of saving four boys at a time - a possibility chief rescuer Narongsak Osottanakorn wouldn't rule out.

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“ Empathetic hedonism ”: why we were so glued to the Thai cave drama . By Brian Resnick@B_resnick. New information suggests the 12 Thai boys trapped in a cave were medicated and carried out on stretchers during the rescue operation.

The speed and intimacy at which we can understand these [stories] is new, and ever increasing. That helps the appeal of these kinds of stories, you can keep refreshing the hashtag, and keep finding new stuff, and be transported into people’s lives that you couldn’t 10 or 20 years ago.

Brian Resnick

How should we feel about that, that it’s entertaining to watch horrible things unfold? How should we think through the morality of empathetic hedonism?

Tim Recuber

People tend to be critical of this. There’s a knee-jerk response that it’s wrong. But I tend to be heartened by the fact that people care deeply about others who are different from them.

I think empathy has a lot of problems, and at times, our attention might be better focused elsewhere. When you talk to people who watch this stuff, they’re upset, they’re worried, they hope everything turns out okay. I don’t see the harm in caring about kids who are trapped in a really scary place.

Brian Resnick

What do you mean by, “I think empathy has a lot of problems?”

Tim Recuber

Empathy is really partial. We’re more inclined to be empathetic to people who we feel are like us. Identifiable victims, relatable victims. And oftentimes racial, class, and gender biases get in the way of empathetic identification. There are even studies that show that people viewing a person’s skin being pricked by a needle will have more of a [physiological] reaction when the skin is the same colour as theirs.

Thai Cave Rescue Movie in Early Stages of Development

  Thai Cave Rescue Movie in Early Stages of Development The Thai cave rescue operation will likely soon get the movie treatment. Pure Flix Entertainment is seeking the movie rights about the mission to rescue a dozen boys and their soccer coach who were trapped deep within a labyrinth.

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“ Empathetic hedonism ”: why we were so glued to the Thai cave drama https Im so angry this morning. Life is fucking hard and crazy and Tony I love you. Im wearing your boots that I never wore because they were yours, and going to work.

Brian Resnick

In that view, I guess, it’s really nice that many Americans are caring about a group of boys who don’t look much like them.

Tim Recuber

The status of children is trumping any kind of ethnic biases. People are hearing about kids in a dark scary place. And it strikes a chord. I’d rather it did strike a chord than it didn’t.

Brian Resnick

I hear that. People are caring.

But is there a line where when hedonistic empathy becomes something more sinister? The example I’m thinking of is people going to a gladiator match. There’s a morbid fascination.

Tim Recuber

There’s always a small number of people tuned into disasters like this hoping for the worst or with an ironic detached attitude. Those people exist. Those tend to be slim amounts of people.

The novelty and the spectacle of the thing is typically a draw too. That’s apart of the appeal of disasters. If you think of people obsessively watching videos of the [Japanese] earthquake and tsunami in 2011, part of the appeal was just watching something they’d never seen before.

Brian Resnick

You have any advice for reporters covering this story, or similar ones in the future?

Tim Recuber

First, the first reports in a disaster are the least reliable.

And then, respecting the victim, and giving the victims space, and letting the victims decide if they want to be on camera. And oftentimes victims do [want to be on camera].

Just look at the Parkland High School shooting kids. They wanted to have a say. But if you look at the Virginia Tech shooting a decade before it, those kids had cameras thrust into their faces as they were coming out of classrooms. A few days after the shooting there were signs all over the campus saying “media stay away.”

Brian Resnick

Empathy is not an invitation for invading privacy.

Tim Recuber

Exactly.

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the speaker's, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

Aussie Thai cave divers will be honoured .
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says Australian divers involved in rescuing the boys stuck in a flooded Thai cave will be honoured.Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the Australians involved in the rescue will be given civilian honours for their part in the international effort.

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