The recent trend of everyone whipping out their cell phones to record & live stream violent events is both positive and negative and I’m not sure the positives always outweigh the negatives. On the one hand, as this article points out, it DOES help hold “authorities” to account: in fact, it spawned a whole ongoing awareness project for one victim of capricious police violence. Photographyisnotacrime.com chronicles a depressingly familiar experience for many (your intrepid director as well).
However, we are rapidly approaching New York in the 70s & 80s territory. New Yorkers stepping over dying or beaten people because they “didn’t want to get involved.” When apathy reaches this point, it goes much deeper than simply feeling apathy: it really points to a lack of humanity and an unwillingness not only to see actual violence, but to actively DO something about it. If 5 people had rushed those police offers arresting George Floyd, they would have been overwhelmed. If people actually mobbed and detained criminals rather than cravenly videoing their crimes to post on youtube, perhaps these feelings of guilt would never happen.
I opened this with “of two minds.” On the one hand, I strongly believe that filming helps but will add: not at the expense of confronting injustice as it happens. Far too often, passivity leads to tyranny and guilt. The guilt those folks who only film feel is, in many ways justifiably what they should feel. Would we accept and exonerate five friends who filmed a sixth rape someone and gave the recording to the police? Of course not! We would expect them to beat the living snot out of the would be rapist before he could get his pants down! At the very least, they would be considered an accessory to the rape.
In conclusion, it is a fine line, but a line nonetheless. Passivity in the face of personal danger is one thing, but mobs of people standing around making prurient videos? I’m not sure that rises to moral injury.