Wednesday, November 09, 2011

COLUMN: Kadhafi

Ah, yes -- Halloween. Our time-honored and cherished holiday where we celebrate the spooky, the macabre, and the things that go bump in the night. When we can channel-flip through the TV dial and see zombies and vampires and blood and guts and dead bodies aplenty. It's good to see everyone getting into the spirit of things this year -- up to and including CNN.

Last Thursday, the scariest thing on TV wasn't a werewolf or a zombie or Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. No, instead it was the morning newscast just as I was stepping out of the shower.

"...we can now confirm the death of Moammar Gadhafi. We're beginning to receive video. Caution, these images are graphic."

Now, I suppose a person 100% in control of his or her impulses would be able to think to oneself, "This is an intriguing and fascinating news story. That said, there's no need to assault my brain with graphic images of death at 7:50 a.m. in the morning. Therefore, I will choose to turn away." I also suppose that a person 100% in control of his or her reflexes would be able to quickly avert their eyes in the rough .08th of a second that CNN gave us between announcing the graphic video and PLAYING said graphic video.

Instead, I started my day standing statuesquely stark naked and dripping wet, hypnotized by rough video of a freshly dead and extra gross Libyan that I've never especially cared about. I must have stood there with my mouth hanging open for a good 30 seconds before I announced to no one at all: "Ewww!"

Why would the major news networks feel the need to treat us to what's essentially Assassination Porn at breakfast-time? Or heck, ANYtime for that matter? Just because somebody sticks a dead body in front of a camera doesn't mean that you need to broadcast it willy-nilly to an innocent nation. I was relatively creeped out by the images of a dying and subsequently dead Gadhafi -- I wonder how many KIDS got to unwittingly witness that same news coverage? Shame on you, news networks.

And the images carried on and actually got worse and worse as the day progressed. By the time I got off work, it was like an amateur Libyan version of "Weekend at Bernie's." I channel-flipped from one gory video to another. The networks couldn't get enough dead man walking. A week later, I'd like to say that it's stopped. But I kid you not, the lead story on as I write this is:

"Gadhafi Sodomized: Frame By Frame Analysis (GRAPHIC.)"

Really? REALLY? THAT'S what it's come to? We're taking gruesome images of a bad guy's death and having a CSI frame-by-drame dissection in order to fully appreciate and maximize every individual second of torture inflicted on the dude? This is a sick world. I'm not remotely trying to defend Gadhafi, either - he was clearly a scumbag who arguably deserved his grisly end. But that doesn't mean I want to WITNESS said grisly end, and I hope for humanity that most of us feel the same way. I mean, I'd hate to meet the guy who came across that headline and went, "Ooh, sodomy, you say? (CLICK!)"

Our downfall, it seems to me, is two-fold:

(1) We've gradually become desensitized to gore. I first realized it when I played the video game Mortal Kombat. Two characters fighting to the death was intense enough, but no. MK took it to the next level with finishing moves -- if you were REALLY good with the game controller, furiously tapping in the right code at the right time could make your character grab your opponent's head and triumphantly rip out their spinal cord. In short, it was AWESOME.

But violent video games gave birth to TV shows pushing the grossness boundaries to new and exciting levels. You can't say naughty words on TV -- and you certainly can't have a wardrobe malfunction -- but if you'd like to catch a virus that liquifies your body, you'll have a starring role on the next episode of "Bones." Have you guys ever SEEN this show? Every episode goes something like this:

"Hello, Bones."
"Hello, Angel the vampire."
"No, that was my last show. Now I'm just a run-of-the-mill FBI agent despite being so superhumanly attractive that guys like Shane immediately develop inferiority complexes when they watch my show."
"Ah, yes. So I hear Mr. Smith has been murdered and you'd like my help."
"Yes, please."
"So why did you bring me here to this gooey red pile of maggots?"
"This gooey red pile of maggots IS Mr. Smith, Bones."

(2) We've become an untrusting society. Once upon a time, all it took was a stone-faced, chain-smoking newscaster to deliver what we took for granted to be the truth. Nowadays, we question EVERYTHING. The moon landings were fake, the government's poisoning us with jet vapors, 9/11 was an inside job -- there's a cockamamie conspiracy theory out there for everything. I'm not saying that we shouldn't question authority -- the fact that we CAN is what makes our country inherently better than, say, Libya. But if a newscaster comes on my TV and goes, "Gadhafi is dead. We've confirmed it with DNA," I'm good with that. I'm not going to stand there and go, "The hell he is. Until I see townsfolk playing soccer with his severed head, I refuse to believe."

At the end of the day, press coverage of the death of Moammar Gadhafi makes you think. Primarily, it makes me think that you'd have to be out of your dang mind to become a dictator. It just doesn't ever seem to end well, does it? You don't often hear stories like, "He ruled his country with terror and oppression for twenty some odd years… and then had a nice retirement party. He and his wife now have a charming little bungalow up the coast." No, if you dictate for a living, you might have a few years of golden toilets and opulent statues, but the odds are better than decent that you'll eventually end up in a ditch, cave, or on the receiving end of a good NATO strike.

So here's to you, Moammar -- you got what you deserved. I just didn't need to see it first-hand.

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