Monday, September 2, 2019

Can we stop sugarcoating horror now?

     With the anniversary of the start of World War II nearly upon us, a New Jersey publicist sent me an email last week, pitching the feel-good story of Dutch teenage girls seducing and killing Nazi officers.
     My first thought was: “It’s always the anniversary of some World War II event. The beginning. The end. Pearl Harbor. D-Day ...”
     My second thought was: “Yeah. Sept. 1. Sunday. Thanks for the advance notice. Making it ... 75 ... no, started 1939 ... 80 years.”)
     Girls killing Nazis. Tempting. Who wants to swim the depths of horror? To risk drowning in humanity’s bottomless evil? To realize just how tenuous our foothold on civilization’s shore? Very human to pluck at thrilling tales of heroism, bobbing on this sea of gore.
     But can you do that too much?

     The media rushes so quickly to comfort that it overshoots reality. What used to be a ray of relief from general horror has become the main event. And not just regarding the Holocaust. We’re too keen to put the bright spin on atrocity. Ten seconds of shock, then straight to “Wind Beneath My Wings” and closure.
     I’d suspected it before, after mass shootings, like the one Saturday in Texas. The grim law enforcement chiefs assemble around a podium to share what little is known about the killer. But not before they put in a plug for first responders — didn’t they work great together? Kudos all around for a job well done!
     Then the heroes are trotted out, dead or alive. The media can’t celebrate those fast enough, people who shielded their loved ones, who herded the terrified schoolchildren into an empty classroom and cowered in the darkness. Humanity at its best!

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  1. It is frightening to think - to know - that you are absolutely right. We need to be forced to look upon the horror. I am reminded first of Emmett Till whose mother insisted on an open casket so everyone could see what they did to her son. Then I recall the famous images from the war in Viet Nam of a naked young child crying in the street and of an older man being shot in the head at close range. Those are images that changed minds and changed the course of history. We have to know that with cell phone cameras being ubiquitous, photos and videos are being taken. Perhaps we need some heroic newspaper editor or television news producer to decide it's more important for us to see the blood and gore than to somehow honor the dead by shielding their bodies from view.

  2. "Ten seconds of shock, then straight to "Wind Beneath My Wings" and closure." Nicely put, and much of what you describe is self indulgent. But focusing only on the grim truth seems another extreme. A touch of schadenfreude.


  3. Thanks for this. I too am very annoyed and disgusted with Trump's go-to reaction for mass random shootings, which is to praise the "wonderful, fantastic job" by the "first responders." It reached its nadir of grotesqueness in El Paso, when he was photographed grinning and giving the thumbs-up sign in an emergency room next to a newly orphaned baby. For God's sake, positive spin is not what is needed or wanted in situations like that.

  4. You hit this one out of the park, Neil. Three Texas shootings ago, they had a press conference with Ted Cruz, Gov. Abbott and some local official, all somberly reflecting and congratulating the first responders. Cruz was particularly oily, but none of them uttered a word about the weapon(s) used in the murders. The press gaggle needed a Howard Beale to express a rage that it might be time to try something different with the second amendment. Maybe law enforcement should point out the Preamble as more important, by promising to "insure domestic tranquility' and "promote the general welfare", than the indistinct and out dated second amendment.


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