Common Sense Comes to Town!

Common sense is the most fairly distributed thing in the world, for each one thinks he is so well-endowed with it that even those who are hardest to satisfy in all other matters are not in the habit of desiring more of it than they already have. (Descartes)

Guy Turcotte, or the Need to Know

Posted on | April 28, 2011 | No Comments

Over two years ago, Dr. Guy Turcotte, a Laurentian cardiologist, assassinated his two children and tried to take his own life using poison in a rented house of Piedmont. The trial opened last week, stirring up media frenzy. Surrounding this trial, a crucial question: do we really need to disclose the entire proof to the public? Do we have a right to do so?

Josée Blanchet, of the Devoir, posted on Twitter this morning her horror at the trial and her fears that her children will find these pictures and words. I have to say that I share her feeling to a certain extent.  

I will not go through the macabre description of the murder scene. Other media took care of this – readers looking for gore will easily be able to find it online. The events description and autopsy reports not only send a chill down my spine, they also conjure up an unstoppable feeling of helplessness and unending sorrow at the thought that the victims were, in the end, defenceless and perfectly conscious children.  

This shook me to the core, as few news items were able to do in the past few years. These images haunt me and make me regret the time I wasted finding out about them. Yet I am normally not the overly sensitive kind. I am thus forced to question the necessity to broadcast so many details about this aggression, both in the transcripts and the pictures submitted as proof. At this point I have to question the need to broadcast information and balance our freedom of speech with another fundamental right, that right of every person to personal well-being.  

As I said, the transcript of the murder scene shook the foundations of my being. But I am only a distant bystander, relatively uncaring. There are however people closer to this entire story, friends of the murdered children, neighbours and families. There are also people in the public at large who are hit more strongly when they hear about these kinds of circumstances, who can feel a lot more anxious about this. I would be the last one to blame them.

The explicit description of the massacre is of no use to me. I can’t conceive that it would be of use to anyone, except those who will need to hand in a verdict on Dr. Turcotte. Otherwise, a certain level of self-censorship may be worth more than thoughtless broadcast of the facts. Can I be proved wrong? Various media have set up camp on both sides of this claim. So has the public – but the free-riding voyeurism which led to the current state of thing should probably be balanced by a sense of ethics, of our responsibilities, and a minimal level of empathy for a public made of people with varied interests and sensibilities.


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  • Photographie par Patrick Meunier

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