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Cannibalism as Entertainment

We had cable a few years ago, but partly because of expense and partly because of the content of some of the channels, we have been reliant of late on a roof antenna. A month ago, we went back on cable. We had some reluctance, but along with channels too stupid for adults and too degrading for our children, there were high quality choices like A&E and the History Channel.

My, how cable has changed in these last few years while we were watching broadcast channels! A&E Biography decided to devote an hour to Jeffrey Dahmer, the Wisconsin serial killer/rapist/cannibal. It was extraordinarily detailed about what Dahmer did, to whom, and with what-the sort of sickening details that no newspaper needs to publish, few adults need to know about, and to which no child should be exposed. So at what time was A&E running this graphic exercise in brutality? Why, at 5:30 PM, when children are watching TV, waiting for dinner.

The week before, MSNBC ran a two hour documentary about serial killers. As much of it as we could stand to watch was focused on John Wayne Gacy. Again, it was awash in gruesome detail (including crime scene photographs) that was completely unnecessary to any attempt at solving the problem. Like the A&E Biography, it was simply pandering to the same sort of degraded public that used to pack a picnic lunch, and watch heretics tortured to death. Like the A&E Biography, this sewer was on from 7:00 to 9:00 PM, when small children are watching TV.

"If you don't like it, just turn it off" is the excuse that the trash entertainment lobby makes. There are a lot of kids out there whose parents regard the TV as a low-cost babysitter; there are a lot of kids who are home alone in the afternoon and early evening, channel surfing through trash like this. Is there no decency or self-control left in the entertainment business? Do they have any idea what a steady diet of this pandering to the lowest common denominator is doing to kids and even some adults? Does anyone wonder why there are so many kids that are willing to casually murder their classmates?

We can remember a time when people who advocated censorship of TV and movies seemed to us like knuckle-dragging Neanderthals. Increasingly, we find ourselves wondering when Congress is going to take some action to rein in an industry whose single-minded focus on profits causes it to expose children to such degrading materials. It had better be soon-how many generations of children does America need to raise in a septic tank where torture, rape, and murder are considered entertainment? 

Clayton E. Cramer is a software engineer in Petaluma. Rhonda L. Cramer teaches 7th and 8th grade at a private school.