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.
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.