Friday, April 12, 2013

A Serial Killer Too Dark Even For Television

Serial killers are all the rage on television of late. And they have held that position for a while now. Dexter. Hannibal. Red John. Floyd Farrell. Kermit Gosnell.

Wait. Kermit who…?

You can be forgiven if you don’t know the name of Kermit Gosnell. And to be fair to the good doctor, I should call him an alleged serial killer since he’s still on trial in Philadelphia.

He’s also not a fictional creation. He’s real. And so is his body count.

But for reasons a lot of people are unable to fathom and the cultural fascination with lurid murder trials and mass killers aside, Dr. Gosnell is rarely if ever mentioned by any of the major players in the 24 hour news cycle and has not appeared on a network newscast since his trial began.

Gosnell is being tried for 8 counts of murder, one a woman who died on his operating table during a late term abortion. The other seven, babies born alive during abortion procedures, who (according to testimony) Gosnell dispatched rather than follow his Hippocratic oath.

Now, before we go any further, let me make it clear that I’m Pro-Choice. If a pregnant woman does not want to bring another life into the world, I believe that decision is hers to make and hers alone.

A lot of that belief comes from personal experience. I was a teenager at a time when abortion was illegal and had friends who married people they didn’t want to marry and had kids they didn’t want and didn’t come to love in time.

I also spent a horrific night on an NYPD ride-along when the cops I was with were called to attend a 12 year old in labor. A 12 year old pregnant as a result of incest.

You can’t witness something like that and not feel that there are Life events no one should be forced to endure.

Still, the battle for abortion on demand was hard won and still engenders passionate feelings. But in the process, one generation’s humanitarian achievement seems to have become the next one’s unchallengeable sacred cow.

Recently, in Canada, a cabinet minister was pilloried for suggesting abortion laws needed to be reviewed to prevent the gender specific abortions that have become common place in our country.

Maybe it’s right that no unwanted child should be brought into the world. But, like a lot of guys, I like women and don’t think the world would be a better place if there were fewer of them.

There’s also an ongoing debate about late term abortions (those occurring between the 29th and 40th week of gestation) in which a fetus can be born alive and viable.

This was the territory in which Dr. Gosnell specialized and according to his prosecutors the circumstances under which he ended the lives of babies who could have survived.

So why aren’t you being told this story?

It’s clearly got more emotional impact than moment-by-moment coverage of cruise ships with overflowing toilets.

If you’re a fan of serial killer tropes, it’s got jars full of tiny severed body parts which may have been kept as trophies and events one clinic worker described as: “It would rain fetuses. Blood and fetuses all over the place”.

Got enough slides for that much blood, Dexter? Thinking about going vegan, Hannibal?

Pro-Life leaning pundits would have us believe that networks who spent months promulgating a “war on women” being waged on the battlefield of abortion rights don’t want to look into the surrounding shadows.

Others believe the media are uncomfortable with the Gosnell case given that as an Illinois State Senator President Obama fought hard to make sure abortion doctors would be allowed to deny life saving treatment to live infants outside the womb.  

As for me, I think something else is at work, a form of network self-preservation. With so much invested in so many different shows in how clever, quirky and “edgy” serial killers are, nobody wants to remind the audience that the real horrors aren’t all that much fun.

What went on in Gosnell’s clinic is horrific by any standard. You can’t hear about it and still be eager to see what the crazy guy on this week’s “Criminal Minds” gets up to.

It’s too raw. It’s too close. It doesn’t titillate an audience.

In other words, it doesn’t make good television.

1 comment:

Win said...

Thanks for that Jim.

I also read the Salon article and they referenced coverage from 2011.

A favorite ploy of news agencies is to hide their lack of coverage under the title of "old News". Nothing to see here move along.
That way they can look the other way and seem legitimate.

Another reason they are not covering this horrific story is that any attempt to highlight the atrocities will automatically trigger the knee jerk cry of "racism".

Any coverage of a black professional misbehaving almost always elicits that hue and cry from the apologists.

Either approach is cowardly.