Thursday, April 9, 2015

"No Mas"

The following is not the most important issue in this context, but it is viscerally disturbing to me.  If I am “behind the curve” on this one, I would humbly suggest that they recalibrate the curve.

On Friday November the 22nd 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated, the assassin, most believe, being Lee Harvey Oswald.

On Sunday morning, November the 24th, while being transferred from police headquarters to the county jail, Oswald was assassinated by Jack Ruby. 

Along with millions of other people, I witnessed the Oswald shooting on television.

It was a memorable experience.

This was not the first live killing I had witnessed on TV.  I cannot tell you the exact date, but one Saturday afternoon sometime in late March of 1962, I was flipping around the (three) channels when I came across the rebroadcast of a championship boxing match between Emile Griffith and Benny “Kid” Paret.

What I witnessed in shocked horror was Paret, slumping helplessly against the ropes, as Emile Griffith pounded the crap out of him, landing punch after undefended punch, referee Ruby Goldstein standing by not stopping the fight, Paret finally collapsing in a heap on the canvas.

Ten days later, Benny “Kid” Paret was dead.

I did not literally witness his death.  But I had unequivocally witnessed what had caused it.

I had accidentally watched two actual murders on television. 

And they have remained in my consciousness ever since.   

My first encounter with death could not be helped.  Nobody could have anticipated that Oswald would be assassinated.  They were televising a prisoner transfer, and wound up covering a homicide.

The second incident didn’t need to be rebroadcast, though perhaps the rebroadcasting preceded Paret’s death, in which case they were rerunning a gut-wrenchingly brutal but, as yet, non-lethal boxing match.  I could have switched to another channel, I suppose, but the brutality was mesmerizing and, of course, I too at that viewing was unaware of its terminal consequence.

Since those two broadcasts… I don’t know, maybe television instituted subsequent “Guidelines of Acceptability”, but for whatever reason, I never saw any further assassinations.

Until yesterday.

I don’t regularly watch cable news anymore, but there was a commercial on the show I was watching and I switched to MSNBC to check in on the current nonsense of the day.

Almost immediately, I was confronted by raw video shot by a witness in the vicinity of a man running away from a police officer who was shooting repeatedly at the fleeing person until he eventually fell to the ground and was dead. 

I am watching this shocking footage and I’m thinking…

What the hell happened to the guidelines?

Followed immediately by…

What the hell did I just see!

Or maybe it was the other way around. 

Today, following the continuing coverage of the incident, I turned away from MSNBC which was about to rebroadcast the video, which I did not want to see again, switching instead to CNN, where expert commentators were engaged in a panel discussion concerning the shooting. 

As the discussion proceeded, rather than offering images of the inevitable “Talking Heads”, having arranged it on some kind of a loop, CNN ran the bystander’s video of the police officer shooting the fleeing person over and over, the expert commentators continuing chattering in cameoed inserts. 

I could not believe they were employing repetitions of this murderous video as homicidal accompaniment.  (Or was it the other way around?)  It reminded me of that giant poster owned by the Woody Allen character in Manhattan, displaying the Vietnamese officer being unceremoniously shot in the head.

In all the above situations, the assassinations themselves, of course, are the most hideous component.


I have seen three people murdered on my television.

I do not want to see any more.    


JED said...

We in the Boston area are seeing more murder on TV when replays of the Boston Marathon Bombing are replayed over and over. They are a little less disturbing because of the wide angle and dstance from the camera. But you know that in the smoke, three people are losing their lives.

As I wrote this, I remembered that during the recent trial, new video came to light showing the bombers stalking and killing a police officer as he sat in his car. Again, the distance and darkness remove some of the horror.

I guess this is not what you were talking about. I could take my view farther from what you are talking about by remembering the images broadcast during the Iraq wars when the military (through the networks) broadcast bomb strike. We knew what was happening in the clouds of smoke but didn't directly see the people who died.

Billy Speare said...

I don't have cable or satellite TV but I've seen the video from SC numerous times on every news broadcast and the Today Show, as well. As JED indicates, we saw lots of killing during the Iraq war. In fact, didn't Gen. Schwarzkopf make the daily shows entertaining? It was like watching a video game with expert commentary. And yet, hundreds or thousands of the enemy died. We saw it, but we didn't see their faces as they perished.

During the Vietnam War, how many Buddhist Monks did you see burn themselves alive? I'm not sure I ever saw one on the news, but I've certainly seen more than one in documentaries over the years.

The execution in which the Vietnamese police official shoots the suspected Viet Cong in head is also available on YouTube. (Interesting story but not today's topic.)

Like you and thousands more, I saw the fight you mentioned. I recall watching the Friday Night Fights with my dad almost every week. I can still close my eyes and see Griffith punching Paret over and over and over, Paret out on his feet, unable to defend himself. You're right, we didn't see him die, but we did seem him killed. Much later in life...I'm trying to recall it now...was it Ray Boom Boom Mancini doing a similar number on a South Korean fighter, who died a few days after the fight? I just looked it up. It's true and there's even a video (surprise!) on YouTube. I'm not watching it, no.

These events are all news and therefore, it should be shown on TV with the warning of 'what you're about to see...' You have the warning, therefore, you don't have to watch. Clear the kids out, or change the channel, but we're showing it now!

In the old days, the news shows would not show us such events. But today's attitudes seem to call for more and more of the once forbidden. The only antidote is turn off the TV.