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Television and the Problem of Evil

Updated on November 13, 2012
Image credit: alexwhite / 123RF Stock Photo
Image credit: alexwhite / 123RF Stock Photo | Source

It is certainly interesting, looking back upon yesterday's long-running and extra-lurid programs, to reflect and comment anew. Television viewers got to see for absolutely nothing, no price of admission or ticket, Michael Jackson on the verge of collapse and OJ Simpson handcuffed behind the back. The average Joe might well wonder who was the mastermind of these demonic projects. Whoever they were, they must have had some cause, and chances are it was not the safety and well-being of Californians. But what was it? And what made so many millions complicit in a Puritanical witch hunt by watching night after night, day after day in stony silence?

If these were criminal or civil cases without hyperbole and fanfare, they would have been much more legitimate. But instead, they were broadcast to a naive public, unfamiliar with the use and abuse of images on a screen -- or legalities for that matter. They were riveted. Not long after film was invented, national leaders began to employ the young craft to manipulate public opinion. It had power. Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and Churchill all became competent performers. They readily saw the possibilities and enhanced their positions on the world stage accordingly. Contemporaries today can only speculate on what was behind the sturm und drang of times past. But if Triumph of the Will was not a work of stagecraft as much as statecraft, what was it? Churchill's and FDR's speeches on newsreels were straightforward and honest, if theatrical, but Germans, unimpressed, opted instead to capitalize upon audience gullibility. Today, not just Russians still use excerpts from Sergei Eisenstein's silent films as though they were documentaries. Negative images are not equivalent to words; they hurt. And it is difficult to muster a personal defense against them. Reactions are immediate, sub-conscious, and ineradicable. No matter how sophisticated, audiences hiss at the portrait of one world leader and flush with affection at the corresponding portrait of another. They have been conditioned like Pavlovian dogs. They might think they know why, but that is all.

The best way to hide information is to bring the preferred and competing lies to videotape -- rather than, for example, publish an editorial in a prestigious but seldom read journal open to rebuttal. If the accusers had done the latter, they might have had to reveal their identities. This they did not want. Instead, they planted the impression that a higher, omniscient force was on hand whose mission was best served by television entrepreneurs. This usurpation of a powerful but unscrupulous medium by people acting as though they represented an irrefutable authority is much more criminal than the crimes they instantly brought to the attention of an international audience. Obviously, somebody really wanted Simpson as well as Jackson, though others might have done nicely, too, and proceeded, unhindered, with extreme prejudice. Were the actual crimes committed accurately reported? It is valid to ask since the tragedies in question were splashed upon multitudinous screens that more or less held viewers hostage for days to come. Why assume that newscasters and news teams are irreproachable? And what did the DAs lack to drive them into the hands of Barnum and Baily? There are established protocols for these things. Why were the subsequent arrests and trials delivered to so many living rooms across so many lands rather than dealt with in respectful privacy? Once the accused are put on camera against their will, there is little likelihood that they will ever be able to prove their innocence. Human nature alone will then become the motor behind their eventual destruction. Logic suggests that the whole mournful events of the turn of the century had to have been, in large part, teleplays. Something else was going on, sight unseen. Further, every single piece of evidence that emerged in the courtrooms could have been faked. Every line might have been written and rehearsed. A lens, let's remember, is not the eye of God. Thus, there is absolutely no reason to believe, based on the given audio-visuals, that either OJ Simpson or Michael Jackson were anything other than celebrities under siege. They might have been acquitted, but they walked off guilty in the eyes of all humanity. Both were subjected to show trials, humiliated, photographed practically to death, and forced in front of the very eyes of citizens who purport to believe in human rights to endure incredible torments.

And that is the crux of the matter. To enable a holocaust, all that is needed is to put victims on television. There is no need for transports or barbed wire. No matter how much inmates gesticulate, few TV fans will want to spoil the "fun". They will watch literally anything: slow starvation or screams for help. The Simpson/Jackson phenomena prove as much. Their downfalls help pave the way to future catastrophes on more massive scales. These are the tiny Guernicas that go before. Since there were so few outcries then, there is not much in the way of mercy that regular people can expect in the years ahead -- if current trends are not addressed. Mockeries of justice are the stuff of which South American dictatorships are made. If victims are herded like sheep led to the slaughter before television cameras, it will be their own bad luck. Right? They look bad. They must be bad. No one will interfere. Eureka, it works. But this travesty is hardly free enterprise. Lives are at stake. The partnership of television and evil must not continue to orchestrate clever hate crimes. Viewers themselves, and no one else, must rage more effectively against the machine. Otherwise, carefully concealed monsters will antiseptically proscribe without actually having to soil their pointed fingers with blood.

Practitioners of the tube who disseminate eye-catching news stories have hidden agendas. They might be yours, too, but probably not. Film is the more redemptive art. It, too, however, has serious flaws and problems. Television, popular and time-consumptive, is the chief concern. Its ability to stir up a lynch mob is beyond dispute. As to what to do about it, who knows? Government regulation and oversight seem even more dangerous. And yet, people have a God-given right to defend themselves. They should just say no to a process that would force them to suffer, be photographed, and then systematically shamed before millions if not billions.


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