Friday, September 28, 2012

Bread, Circuses, and Pushing the Envelope

By now, many will have heard that a man shot himself to death on live Fox News television this afternoon. It was during Shepard Smith's Studio B program.

When it became obvious the man put a gun to his head, Shepard to his credit began yelling, "Get off it, GET OFF IT!" But the tape delay didn't work or something, and the man pulled the trigger on himself on live television. Shepard grimly apologized to the audience after they came back from the immediate break they took.

After I had a chance to mull it over and collect my thoughts, I wanted to say something about this before it becomes forgotten in the 24-hour news cycle. This disturbs me a lot. I am a former news director, anchor and reporter on radio. Thankfully, radio can't "show" things except audio. The television I have done has been limited to school, being interviewed and once on a political panel.

My cynical side wants to take over and run. There is a part of me—knowing our culture and knowing how today's media strive to constantly one-up each other—that wonders if some of these "accidental" airings of something gruesome are really all that accidental? The media and the entertainment industry is constantly pushing the envelope to outdo the other in terms of outrageousness and what they can get away with—all in the name of ratings and getting more viewers. I sincerely hope that's not what is happening here. I doubt it, but that little warning klaxon in my head is making its presence known. God forbid. However . . .

The photo you see is of the famous Roman Coliseum. It is a place where people went to watch other people die for entertainment. Gladiators fighting to the death. Christians being eaten by lions. You name it. The gorier, the better. And often before the Emperor, who acted as emcee.

Let me clue you in on something. Human nature has not changed since the days of the Coliseum. Not one whit. There are people who still get tremendous enjoyment out of watching the macabre, the gruesome and the cruel. We are increasingly a voyeuristic culture. And such voyeurism only gets worse when it's fed.

I am praying more fervently than ever for our country. I really don't like the direction we're going.

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