The Putney Bridge Jogger video and news story sparked a very immediate and strong reaction from traditional and new media audiences in the UK and abroad. This post is an attempt at explaining an additional reason why.
Many took to their social media accounts to scrutinise the video and voice their feelings and opinions on what happened and importantly, on what should happen to the jogger now. Strangely, the latter being in some cases, as brutal and unsettling to read as what he appears to have done.
I couldn’t help but notice the allegorical nature of the footage and situation. I think an indirect but very decipherable and visceral message is given form by this CCTV footage released by the Met today and I think this could be behind the escalated reaction.
The low-def video appears to show a jogger “pushing” a woman into traffic and continuing on with his jog like nothing happened. She is clearly seen falling to the tarmac and missing a double decker’s front wheel by a hair, owing to the beyond-par reflexes of the bus driver who swerved and stopped just in time.
One of the videos released explains that the woman, who suffered minor injuries, was assisted by passengers of the bus. She is said to have confronted the jogger shortly after, as he run back over the bridge in the opposite direction, to no avail.
There are many appeals for information by the Police, sometimes with footage releases of crimes of all types varying in seriousness. Some releases spark a lot more attention than others and it is often very clear that the reaction is not proportional to the graveness of the crime. Why? Why the difference?
What happened to the woman is extremely unsettling to watch, it is clearly a situation that makes the strongest of us feel at risk during everyday tasks such as a simple commute to work. The apparent brazen behaviour of the jogger is also spine chilling to witness. But, is this all there is? Why react more to this video than to the stabbing in East London reported on the same day? Via the same channels?
I think the difference is in the hidden message the actions and images carry. Particularly as read unconsciously or semi-consciously.
There are two expressions ingrained in our english-speaking psyche: “to be thrown under the bus” and “to be run over by a bus”.
The latter is used to point to unforeseen circumstances that, although very unlikely, should be factored into processes and financials to ensure an organisation or endeavour is not caught by surprise with unlikely events.
The former expression: “to be thrown under the bus”, is more relevant to this article in that the video appears to give flesh to an unconscious visual that we already relate to the feelings of powerlessness, rage and eventual strenuous recovery we go through when we are betrayed by those we trust. In particular, betrayed and dismissed or abandonned by those we trust. Being left to fend for ourselves in disadvantegous circumstances.
The mystery jogger, whether by negligence or deliverately, could possibly be thought to embody the unfortunate persona that is “the one that betrayed my (civil) trust”. There is an unspoken agreement among civilians that we will not precipitate each other into dangerous situations, less so when we least expect it and as we go about our business and lives.
The dismissive body language of the jogger and the affirmation that he never stopped to check what happened to demonstrate he cared, taps into a very vulnerable, yet unconscious, feeling we experience most vividly in our infancy.
The range of emotional reactions online was very varied and possibly linked to various degrees of betrayed dependencies experienced over the years as infants and later on as adults, by those sharing their views. I think there is something about the footage that taps into a visualisation linked to situations most have experienced in their lives. What he did is immoral, yes but the gut reactions were tapping into something else in addition to the rationalisation of what happened and the normal emotions of horror and disbelief. The reactions went beyond that I feel.
The unconscious reads a lot more than it allows us to be conscious off. I have no doubt that a detached analysis of the news piece today would have saved a lot of people a fair bit of social media aggravation. Specially when compared to reactions to other serious incidents.
The more we know about ourselves:
* the more likely we are to be surprised by hidden allegories and messages that were staring us in the face;
* the less likely we are to be adversely affected by them.
The memories and feelings we associate to words and images can be used to conjure a stronger response.