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Sensitivity or Censorship?

by Neena Louise

Once again, television has taken it upon itself to pretend to reach into our psyches and arbitrarily decide what we're capable of tolerating. The dickless coward the media has dubbed the "Beltway Sniper" who has been randomly gunning people down while they go about their daily business, has been blamed for television and movie companies axing or delaying shows and movies because of the perceived parallels to what is happening in the Washington area. It's absurd.

The networks claim certain episodes of some series would be in "poor taste" given the current climate of fear and pretend they are being "sensitive" to the grieving families of the sniper victims. Well, television can often be used as a synonym for "poor taste", so I don't see the logic there. And as far as being "sensitive" to the grieving families, I hardly think the loved ones of the victims are really going to huddle around the tv, trying to allay their grief by watching CSI or 24. It's patently ridiculous and the networks' decisions to delay episodes of a series (a new announcement seems to be made every day) smacks of censorship. Of course we should (and do) feel deeply for the innocent victims whose lives were suddenly ended for no reason (by someone who will probably turn out to be an ineffectual dork that's never had a date in his life), but I don't see how not airing a make-believe story shows respect. I hardly think the victims' families would support this type of censorship, and I strongly suspect the networks are using this terrible situation for the built-in publicity. If true, I don't think anything could be more disrespectful - not to mention tasteless and disgusting.

It was the same fuzzy "sensitivity" logic the networks used when they delayed Buffy the Vampire Slayer's season finale shortly after the Columbine shooting. And the plethora of shows and movies that were cut and/or delayed after September 11th. Do they really think we are so delicate? If we were, we wouldn't watch television at all! And, if they do, what about all the people that die of cancer every day? There are a glut of stories on the tragedy of cancer, with no "sensitivity" issues. And what about those that die of heart attacks every day? And car crashes? And drug overdoses? And suicides? There is a grieving family created every day from the loss of an innocent loved one - sniper or no sniper - and if television was really so concerned about all the tragic ways innocent people can die, the airwaves would consist entirely of G-rated shows.

I bet the sniper is thrilled. Not only is he getting the attention he probably never got from his mommy from the media circus that has sprung up around his senseless acts, he's also affecting what the rest of America is allowed to watch on television. The networks still do not seem to get it, so let me point it out yet again: it's irresponsible to give so much attention and credit to acts of terrorism such as this. Do you think the sniper (or anyone) would commit such acts if they didn't get as much attention? They're like spoiled bratty children that need someone to "[sniff] pay attention to meeeee".

Of course, the sniper's acts are news and should absolutely be reported, but they should absolutely not be affecting our way of life - which is exactly what's happening by affecting what we are allowed to watch on television. I, for one, am appalled and dismayed that the networks still have not learned this most fundamental of lessons.
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