The Awful Newspaper Coincidence That Went Viral

Monde de merde.

Posted by Tim Soret on Thursday, September 3, 2015

Here’s a case of truly terrible juxtaposition: Last week, a man in France posted this four-second video on Facebook of major French newspaper Le Monde’s above-the-fold, Page One image of the body of 3-year-old Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi, washed ashore, and a Gucci ad on the following right-hand page featuring a model lying on the beach, snuggling with a Gucci handbag.
Photo: Via Tim Soret/Facebook.
The short but impactful clip, posted by Tim Soret, co-founder of Odd Tales, a video game company, is captioned “Monde de merde” (which translates to “shitty world”). The brief video has amassed more than 1.7 million views in five days. “It’s not the misfire that is atrocious. It’s the horrible world where an article about a drowned, dead child can run alongside someone dipping their foot in a pool on holiday,” Soret wrote in the video’s comments section. “It’s the purest representation of inequalities, the fact that everything is mixed, that nothing is important, that value no longer exists, that what’s crucial is lost in the middle of superficiality.”

Le Monde
issued an a letter to their readers in print and online on Friday, taking responsibility for the error: "Upon printing, we did not realize this unfortunate coincidence. We regret any harm this may have caused." Reps for Gucci pointed us to this statement, but have yet to comment on the incident.

Some commenters on Soret's Facebook video did indeed deem the jarring pair of images merely to be Le Monde's unlucky mistake. “A photo of a model on the beach is disgusting to you? At most, we should complain of those involved in the newspaper layout and those who manage the daily advertising space,” one commenter wrote in response to the video.
Photo: Via Tim Soret/Facebook.
Yes, it’s extremely unfortunate that Le Monde didn’t catch the awful proximity of the images before the issue went to press. It’s also a bit atrocious that a dead toddler’s photo is being plastered on newspapers and TV screens globally. But if that visual gets people informed and perhaps impassioned about the worst refugee crisis since World War II, which is affecting hundreds of thousands of people fleeing to Europe from countries including Syria, Somalia, and Afghanistan? At least that’s worth something. Plus, this is what powerful photojournalism often is: hard to look at, capturing society’s ugliest moments, ethically complicated, and reminding the world not to let something horrible happen again.

Does the cringe-y contrast of a wrenching photo and a luxury ad make you even angrier about the refugee crisis? Do something about it by donating to UNHCR (the UN’s global refugee agency) here.

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