Commentary: Our insensitivity in the digital age

Mary Sanchez is a columnist for the Kansas City Star.
Mary Sanchez is a columnist for the Kansas City Star. MCT

Tell me, how does this happen?

Explain what kind of a person views a man gravely injured and finds it a scene suitable for photography, a public spectacle that should be recorded and posted to Facebook for widespread viewing — and yet no one will talk with police?

Kansas City’s outrage for what happened to Brian Euston is long overdue.

He’s been dead nearly three weeks now. We may never know if he fell or was sucker-punched to the ground in Westport early one morning as the bars emptied. Euston had been drinking with friends. They left. He stayed.

About the only thing crystal clear about that night is the most revolting. People saw the 24-year-old lying on the sidewalk. Given the extent of his head injury, it should have been obvious to bystanders that he wasn’t passed out drunk, but seriously injured.

And yet no one called police. At least 40 people can be seen on the surveillance video, many of them with cell phone readily in hand.

No, the first inclination of the crowd was to snap a picture, then to hightail it out of there. At least a few decided it was a good idea to post their shots to Facebook.

The postings were soon deleted. Euston’s death had become a police matter.

More people than Euston’s loved ones know his story only because his uncle is a Kansas City police officer. When the uncle went to the hospital to see his nephew shortly before Euston’s death, his cop sense kicked in and he became suspicious. About that time police got wind of the callous social media postings.

Psychobabble assessments would surmise that some people are desensitized to violence, even another’s impending death. They’re so used to seeing blood spilled in film, the real sight doesn’t faze them as it should.

They’ll argue authoritatively that people are so comfortable with technology that posting not only every thought that flickers though your head is acceptable, but anything you can snap a photo of is deemed worthy of public distribution.

Here is my less clinical analysis: Some people’s moral void is so deep that the sight of a person suffering doesn’t illicit empathy, but rather voyeurism.

Not my problem. Snap a photo and move on.

Contrary to rumors, Euston’s injuries — head trauma, busted lip and scrapes on his shin — weren’t consistent with a sustained beating. The surveillance video indicates no fight. Besides, the sad truth is that had there been a fight, you can bet the same folks who found his condition entertaining probably would have filmed and posted a brawl to social media as well.

So here is all we know: Euston either fell and hit his head or was punched or shoved down.

And then he was filmed as he lay dying.

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