What are these violent videos doing to us?

The "golden age of brutal voyeurism" is bringing the horrors of war back home.

What are these violent videos doing to us?
First-person footage of Israeli gunners repelling a Hamas assault. The Israeli military posted the video to YouTube.

Full story: Violent videos and ‘brutal voyeurism’ are redefining modern war

When I interviewed a Hamas leader recently over Zoom, around midnight Gaza time, I pressed him to explain why his group continued to hold Israeli civilian hostages whose families had pleaded for their return.

He asserted that his group’s members were the real victims, and that such kidnapping was a necessary tactic — not, as others had said, psychological terrorism, a way to sow fear and even the odds. He equated it with the other videos Hamas had taken to posting online, showing militants storming walls and killing Israeli fighters.

The videos “show that we can do something,” he told me. “It is not only we who are beaten all the time. No, sometimes we can also hit back.” (These are some of the hostages.)

After that interview, I wrote about the grisly footage that has flooded the internet since the wars in Israel and Ukraine began:

The supply of new graphic videos has boomed as fighters use cellphones and GoPro cameras to record or live-stream footage from a point-blank perspective, either for purposes of military strategy or propaganda. So, too, has demand, as internet users flock to loosely moderated video sites, message boards and private groups where they can see and share extreme footage to sate their curiosity or score political points.

Our “increasingly fragmented online media system means there are many more outlets for this kind of content and a wider variety of content moderation schemes to pick from,” said Colin Henry, a researcher at George Washington University who has studied political violence and the internet. “It’s like there are suddenly many more movie theaters in town, and some of them are much more friendly toward snuff films.”

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