Unit 3 Assignment 3- Erica Harris

Gourevitch and Sontag discuss media coverage and photography of horrific events that occur around the world. Gourevitch discusses how the world ignored the genocide in Rwanda, but they all watched the camps with the cholera outbreaks after the Hutus fled. People saw it on the news, and the  “mass anguish” was “an appeal to the world’s conscience” (Gourevitch 168). The world did nothing during the genocide, but it sent aid in with media coverage to the camps in Zaire. Sontag mentions how we look at pictures of war and how the dead “haven’t come back to life” to tell us “to bring a halt to the abomination which is war” (Sontag 125). Taking photographs of the dead will not help because we have not experienced what they have. We can never imagine what they went through even though we try. Overall, I think Gourevitch and Sontag bring up the distinction between empathy and sympathy. By looking at these photographs and watching people die in the thousands, we think we feel empathy for them. Watching aid being brought in, we create a sense that we are doing something to help when we are not. Empathy means having a shared personal experience to a person, but we can never feel what the people who died did. We can have sympathy for them, but we will never truly have empathy. Humans like to feel they know exactly what a person went through and how to help, but this does nothing because we create a false sense of empathy and accomplishment when all we have done is watch. 

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