By Aisha Dow
Sydney Morning Herald
December 16, 2014
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They say disasters bring out the best in people. Not in everyone, it seems.
Cheerful onlookers have been snapping mobile phone “selfies” at the perimeters of the Sydney siege as a still unknown number of hostages remain prisoners of a gunman.
Several photos being shared were originally uploaded to Instagram. One man shared a photo with a fire truck in the background and the hashtag #hostagesituationselfie. The photo has since been deleted from his account.
In another happy snap, three men likely to be tourists pose in front of the police tape marking off the exclusion zone around the terrifying hostage situation in the Lindt cafe in Martin Place. One of the men gives the peace sign.
A number of the selfies posted to social media are being shared on Twitter as social media users shame and condemn the subjects for their insensitivity.
“You would have to be mentally insane and have no respect for anyone if you do,” said one Twitter user.
Another suggested: “If you really want a selfie how about you offer to trade places with a hostage”.
On Monday afternoon BuzzFeed reporter Mark Di Stefano took a photo of two blonde women leaning together to take a selfie “100 metres from the Lindt cafe”. The photo has since been shared more than 450 times on Twitter, with comments condemning the women’s behaviour as “appalling” and “disrespectful”.
Di Stefano said it was not just tourists or bystanders taking the selfies either. He also witnessed television journalists taking photos of themselves at the scene.
He said he had seen people use their GoPro video cameras and “selfie sticks” – an implement which attaches to the phone to allow the user to take the photo from further away.
Although this behaviour left many gobsmacked, it came as no surprised to Melbourne popular culture academic Lauren Rosewarne, who has recently discussed selfies at funerals.
“Yes, in an older generation, it would be considered bad taste to take a camera to a funeral, but the fact is that we all carry one around,” she said.
“An actual camera would be obtrusive and unusual but we all have a camera in our pockets and handbags … a phone is not considered as obtrusive at all.”
Dr Roswarne said for similar reasons those taking the siege selfies may have not immediately realised their actions were inappropriate, especially because there were yet to be any deaths reported. She said the siege was a major news event and some people wanted to be part of the story.
“It’s narcissism,” she said, warning that “the selfie generation should not be without a moral compass.”
“There’s a difference between taking a photo and putting yourself in it.
“It’s taking the focus away from what is a very serious and still unfolding situation.”
It is not the first time onlookers across the globe have been condemned for taking selfies at highly inappropriate times – including at the scene of murders.
In other behaviour condemned on Monday, the leader of the anti-Muslim Australian Defence League, Ralph Cerminara went to the scene to rant against Islam. He was moved on by police.
There were also people making jokes on Twitter about death by Lindt chocolate. Some, self-consciously, even added the hashtag #toosoon.