Thread provides a good example of a psychological defense colloquially called "gallows humor."
When something is so terrible that mere contemplation of it is difficult to accept sometimes people resort to making grim jokes. This is a common practice among rescue workers, ambulance crews, police, emergency room personnel, etc. A coping mechanism to enable them to continue to work all day in the midst of human horror.
Edit: If I'm not mistaken Oscar Wilde employed gallows humor as he lay dying when he made the remark about the awful wallpaper in the room saying, "One of us is going to have to go!"
That is spot on I think. It makes sense as a coping mechanism. There is a similar principle, but also a difference when it is psychological distance of the media instead of hands on gore that has to be confronted. I'm not sure the average person has to cope with a story like that in the same way an EMT deals with pain and death because it is more easily dismissed as unreal.
I'm not completely certain it is real, but seeing her picture and hearing something about her makes her similarly real in my mind to someone posting in this thread whom I also know little about. I can see that most other people make a distinction of forum people being more real that someone in the media, although forum people are also less real in many people's minds than those in real life. People outside a person's sphere tend to be completely dehumanized. From an objective standpoint each person is equally real regardless of how well I know them. Measuring a person's humanness based on their familiarity to oneself is irrational on one level and yet basic to how people think.
The first man to raise a fist is the man who's run out of ideas. H.G. WELLS
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. FEYNMAN If this is monkey pee, you're on your own.SCULLY