It was must-watch TV that was very tough to take.
This week, HBO's edgy and contemporary "Vice" news magazine featured a detailed report on semi-automatic weapons and the growing trend of mass shootings involving them. Among other things, the story included an interview with a physician who treated victims of last year's First Baptist Church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas near San Antonio.
The doctor used her laptop to highlight images of gunshot wounds and X-rays that revealed the profound impact of bullets fired from semi-automatic weapons that struck human beings. The gaping holes were gruesome but couldn't compare to the slo-mo demo footage of a bullet exploding and expanding a mass of meat.
This morning, irony dawned on me. Here was a cable premium channel producing a piece of journalism depicting images that rivaled some of the violence in its original dramatic programming and feature length movies. Virtually every news network is affiliated with an entertainment conglomerate that makes major money selling explosive violence in TV series and feature-length motion pictures.
Disney owns ABC. Comcast owns NBC. National Amusements owns both CBS and Viacom. Of course, 21st Century Fox owns Fox News, but Disney is in the process of spending more than $50 billion dollars to buy the entertainment side of Fox.
So what's the point? As we see more and more consolidation in media, as newspapers and radio fizzle in the digital age, there are fewer and fewer independent news sources with the economic power to investigate and explore serious topics. Those sources that exists are largely owned by corporate giants that have many conflicts of interest. For example, how does a company that makes billions selling shoot-em-up shows and movies objectively pursue issues like inner city gun violence, the gun policy debate, or the influence of violent content and gaming on human behavior?
When I worked as a producer-director for ABC-TV in the 1970's and 1980's, we were required by corporate management to reveal our conflicts of interest each year. We listed stock investments we owned as potential influences that might taint our objectivity.
As Jesus said, "... The truth will set you free." And the truth is that much of our media is deeply invested in violence.
For those who are protesting against gun violence, you might seriously think about avoiding consumptions of TV shows, movies and games that glorify guns, war, crime and killing. You know the ones. Because the same network that features "Vice News" created the legendary mobster series, "The Sopranos."
Forget about it.