Apparently, Fox News aired a car chase earlier today and did not cut away for its conclusion, in which the suspect shot himself in the head.
As with all car chases, a lot of people followed along as it developed, both on television and online. And then, when it came to its conclusion, many of these same people were outraged with Fox for its failure to cut away.
Shepard Smith, who was anchoring the excitement, had this to say when the program returned after cutting to commercial after the shooting:
“We really messed up, and we are all really sorry. That didn’t belong on TV. I personally apologize to you that that happened …. That will not happen again on my watch, and I am sorry.”
But why is Smith sorry? And why are people outraged?
First of all, the network aired the car chase because they knew people would watch it. It’s a ratings boost on a Friday afternoon when people wouldn’t normally tune in. And why do people watch? Because the driver will most likely crash his car. He will be hurt, possibly dead, at the end of it all.
But when this particular driver exited his vehicle and shot himself — when the people who almost certainly had been secretly rooting for him to crash his car became witnesses to his suicide — then everyone quickly became a strict and stern moralist about what is and is not appropriate for a television audience to witness.
What Smith and so many of the people who commented about this incident online seem to be tacitly arguing is that watching a car chase and rooting for the inevitable end of the driver is appropriate, but watching the end is unseemly.
“You should have cut away; we shouldn’t have been forced to witness something like that,” they claim.
But this is simply something we’re lucky to be able to say in the aftermath; if we really felt that it was unseemly, we would never choose to watch the car chase in the first place and therefore Fox would learn not to air it. When the viewers tuned in, what did they imagine would happen? They imagined, without doubt, that things would not end well for the driver; therein lies the excitement. But when it ends so publicly, when our attention is called to the fact that we’ve been watching and secretly rooting for something like this to happen, then we are aghast. At whom?
Well, not at ourselves, of course. At Fox News.
But I would venture to guess that if we looked deep inside, at that part of ourselves we don’t let others see, we would recognize a secret thankfulness. We, the audience, have been given an opportunity to feign shock and outrage at witnessing the death of the driver (the possibility of which had us glued to the broadcast in the first place) and thereby place the blame for our own bloodlust on Fox.