My first article for Politico is on “disaster porn”, with Ukraine coverage as a key example:
The Kyiv protests were also starting to look like clickbait. By the end of the day on Wednesday, Business Insider, Talking Points Memo, Buzzfeed and Mashable had all published their own listicle versions of what Huffington Post called “Ukraine Crisis: 12 Apocalyptic Pictures After Nation’s Deadliest Day.” High in resolution, low on explanation, the articles painted Ukraine’s carnage by numbers.
A new genre had been born: the apocalypsticle.
Ukraine has never been a country that attracted mainstream media interest. The tens of thousands of people viewing, sharing and posting photos of the Eastern European state likely had little knowledge of what Ukraine looked like before the violence—protesters are now claiming at least 100 people have died in the latest clashes—took place. The fascination of the photos is not that Ukraine no longer look familiar, but that it finally does. Ukraine looks like a movie set, like World War II, like the apocalypse. It spurs the imagination because it is real.
Ukraine looks like nothing is really supposed to look, and so no one can stop looking.