Jewish World Review June 18, 2004 / 29 Sivan, 5764
Excessive screening of violence defeats purpose
Do you remember when the media made a decision to stop airing the videos of the jumbo jetliners crashing into the Twin Towers allegedly because repeated viewings could desensitize us to the horror that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001? Maybe it's time to rethink that.
The sentiment to reduce our especially our children's overexposure to violence is sensible and worthwhile. As a matter of our mental and moral health we don't want to dwell unduly on violence and the horrors of life.
But isn't there a distinction between portrayals of violence in fiction and those of actual violence? Couldn't the excessive suppression of real acts of violence, murder and mayhem have precisely the opposite effect than is intended?
Sure, as a civilized culture we want to shield ourselves and our young from coarsening influences with the hope that we don't become numb to these horrors, and thereby less shocked and outraged at their occurrence. But if we go too far the other way, if we try to sanitize real-life atrocities committed in our midst, we run the risk of neutralizing the outrage factor just as surely as we do from overexposure.
A perfect example of this can be seen in the ongoing abortion debates. The pro-abortion lobby expresses implacable indignation at displays of photographs depicting aborted babies. "These are grotesque," they scream.
Do you see the irony in their objections? Those who purport to have such hypersensitivity to the depiction of the macabre seem to have no problem with the underlying acts giving rise to these photographs.
If the photographs showing recently killed babies are unbearable, how much more so the act of killing those babies? Why the selective outrage for the pictures and not the acts themselves?
Pro-life activists have the right, indeed an obligation, to show these pictures, even if especially if they are offensive. They are meant to be offensive because what they depict is offensive.
When we shield ourselves from the graphic evidence of these acts in the name of protecting ourselves, we are betraying the babies already killed and those who will be in the future. Or are our sensibilities more important than the lives of the unborn themselves?
Only if we wake up to the reality of these atrocities will we have a chance of doing something about them. As long as we play these "out of sight out of mind" games with ourselves, we will not likely deal with what is really at stake here: the extermination of human life.
Indeed, as technological and scientific advances force us to deal with the reality: to acknowledge that those creatures in the womb are human beings, more and more people inevitably are turning against abortion.
Nothing seems to shock us into reality better than images. And that's why we should reconsider the conventional wisdom against showing the public videos of September 11, the Daniel Pearl beheading, the Nick Berg beheading, and the recent footage of Saddam Hussein's acts of prison torture made available to an unconscionably disinterested media.
The American Enterprise Institute couldn't seem to get the mainstream press interested in viewing a four-minute tape showing Iraqi prisoners being fed alive to Saddam's doberman pinchers and others' fingers, tongues and heads being cut off. Yet they feast incessantly on the "horrors" our side committed at Abu Ghraib.
Despite our sinful nature, most people are too decent to consider that other human beings are evil enough to engage in the kinds of abominable behavior that is commonplace for terrorists in Saddam Hussein's Iraq and other international terrorists groups, like Al Qaeda.
Until we are reminded of these unspeakably brutal acts we tend not to deal with them. They are too horrible, too unthinkable to occupy our minds for very long. We simply won't permit it.
But if we continue to steal ourselves away from the reality of these horrors we will have difficulty retaining the resolve to persevere in the war against radical Islamic terrorists. We must expose ourselves, at least from time to time, to the fruits of their evil nature, no matter how distasteful.
If we insist on continually beating ourselves up for the relatively isolated bad acts committed by our side, we must restore some proportionality by occasionally focusing on the infinitely more heinous actions of our enemies. Such chilling reminders should provide all the incentive we need to stay the course.
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