It’s a classic case of unforgiving media against road rage.
It would have just been like any common street scene of reckless driver getting pulled over by the traffic police. So it seemed, at least for seconds into the video clip. Arms crossed over chest, the girl driver stands idle by her car fuming in silence, while the police officer is writing her a ticket on the car hood.
No matter how much she is annoyed at this nuisance, the girl seems ready to grab the ticket and drive off in a huff. Then the unforeseeable happens. The female reporter from Guiyang TV makes a partial appearance in the picture thrusting her mike towards the girl driver’s back. “Have you realized that your act is a disgrace to Guiyang City?” She asks in an unmistakably reproaching tone, attempting to draw an admission of guilt from the angry girl driver. But it’s when the last word barely escapes her mouth that the girl driver made a sharp turn from the police officer and starts to curse and drive quick slaps at her. The reporter is obviously stunned by this sudden escalation into violence and can all but try in vain to struggle free of this frenzy assault.
Okay, based on the accompanying news story, let me reconstruct a bit of what precedes this ugly occurrence. Well, there was this girl driving an apparently new Chung Hua sedan. The police officer pulled her over on the ground that she was driving against the traffic on a one-way road plus the number plates were absent on her new car. Driving against the traffic on a one-way road, and no number plates? That’s double offense against traffic rules. No one would ever know why she wasn’t putting number plates on. A safe guess is that she might be still within the one-month grace period given to new car purchases. Within the grace period, new car buyers drive with a temporary pass from the police. But since the police officer was writing the girl driver a ticket anyway, her grace period might just have expired.
Driving on the wrong way without number plates on, the girl driver would have been stupid if she had argued to be spared the punishment. So she clung to the police officer in disgust and watched him writing her a ticket. Then and there she was probably blaming her bad luck or neglect. After all, she would have to shell out 150 yuan or so for what she did wrong on the road.
Yet, by herself she only made a choice or a mistake. If she was okay with the punishment, then who got the right to humiliate her again on the scene? It’s natural for her to think of the reporter’s question as an insult and feel having been stripped bare of her good name or face in front of all the onlookers. I did something wrong, there was the punishment for it. And who are you here to tell me how I should hate myself. If not the violence, that’s how she could have refuted the reporter’s stupidity. What’s this videoing for? How dare you treat me like the shameless sort and make the bad me public?”
When the video clip appeared on the web afterwards, viewers don’t seem divided in their comments. They are mostly sympathetic of the girl driver, who was placed under arrest after the incident and now is probably spending her remaining days in detention, About the poor reporter, who was later checked into hospital for treatment of bruises and minor concussions, she was mocked as childish, unprofessional and heartless. Only her bosses condoned her with praises for her bravery in street reporting. After all, she and her cameraman were teaming up with the police officer to catch law breakers and embarrass them in public. No wonder the three of them could be this conveniently together in all the waiting and catching.
Bad driving should be punished. There is no doubt about it. And no matter how badly she was being provoked, it’s terribly wrong that the girl should respond with such violence. She might have an anger problem, but that too can be managed. Now with the beating for everyone to see, not only would she have to pay a price for it, but she made a scene that brought herself even more humiliation in the end.
Yet, right from the start of the whole thing, the on-site reporter and police officer were wrong about two things big time. First, the fuss and provocation of the reporter was uncalled for. The driver made a choice or a mistake that she already got punished for, and she swallowed her pride in front of the police officer and the onlookers. Then it’s perfectly her right to refuse a TV interview so that she wouldn’t have to be humiliated again on the scene. Second, the videoing of bad drivers caught in the act as well as the very probability of airing it on a TV network is purely violation of people’s rights of privacy. For an offense like that of the girl driver, by law we all just need to pay an amount to walk away. The punishment itself is hardly the judgment of an individual’s character and moral standing. So what justifies the TV exposure of the person for public condemnation? Under no circumstances should individual pride and dignity be too conveniently sacrificed for the “common good”.