Article by Celine Leduc

[Comments are welcome at our Dialogue Corner]

Violence is a Crime Against Humanity

I am one of the founders and a signatory of the petition Turn Off Violence on TV. The reason I joined it is complex, as I do enjoy a good murder mystery such as Agatha Christie's, James Bond, Law and Order or CSI series. These shows challenge me to think and reflect on the horror of violence and its consequences, because they have a moral and are based on the idea of good versus evil. However, I am revolted by gratuitous and random acts of violence that get rewarded.

Sadly, there is a counterculture of blood and guts. Actor or actress takes a back seat; the real star is the special effect: blown up cars, the dismembered or mutilated lifeless body. The story and the script are written to justify and glorify the blood and guts, and will never condemn the violence or killing. Films such as The Terminator promote and encourage violence. Arnold Schwarzenegger made a fortune from such films. When asked in an interview if his kids watched his "action" films, his answer was surprising: "No, my films are too violent," he said, "I do not want my kids to watch". Schwarzenegger decided to star in gentler films that his kids could watch, such as Twins and Kindergarten Cops. If the Terminator can say "Asta la vista, baby" to violence because he loves his kids, what stops us from requesting and even demanding the same? No one would claim that the Terminator is a film censor.

Yet, some considered that the ban on violence and the call to turn off our TV sets is a form of censorship. Censorship means a prohibition to watch, a ban on our thoughts. Censorship is a mindless action, as it demands that we blindly obey or follow a dictate.

The "Banning Violence On TV" Petition is mainly aimed at immoral, sensational crime stories, where the perpetrators literally get away with murder. Having carried out the most horrifying acts, they go on to live safely in Hawaii or Haiti with the loot they have stolen. Unfortunately, in many films "Crime does pay!"

Our Petition does not mean censoring scenes like the burning of Atlanta in Gone with the Wind, as it shows the horrific consequence of a war between brothers and it is a historical fact. It does not signify that we should remain in the dark about slavery and the inhumane behavior of slave masters as portrayed in Roots. Neither do we object to films on physical abuse and the psychological damage done to women. Farah Fawcett in The Burning Bed examines the horror of physical abuse, and the film protests against it. Such violence or abuse is not only a crime against brothers, Africans or women, but also a crime against humanity. These are the kind of films we want to see, the kind that aims to better society.

The petition is totally different from the Catholic censorship, which took away choice and banned books on philosophy, existentialism and history. They even banned reading the Bible. I know this from my own Catholic upbringing. The first time I was asked to read the Bible was with my friend, the late Rabbi Hausmann. My Catholic teachers forbade reading and developing critical views. They took away my freedom to question, criticize, analyze and debate.

The Turn Off Violence on TV petition is based on questions that lead to thinking. It concerns the type of television we want to watch. If I watch a show and feel that it glorifies and rewards violence, should I not turn off my television? If I feel strongly enough, I must act. I write to the networks and advise them as to why I have turned off my set. I can request shows that portray life as it is or shows about hope that inspire me. I request shows or movies that teach how words and images can cause anti-Semitism, racism, sexism and homophobia. Those are real problems and issues, which are rarely discussed. These shows will testify that even verbal violence is a crime against humanity, because it leads to actions.

We are asking viewers to choose between Life and Death. Do we want a culture that glorifies death or venerates the sanctity of life? It is my choice, your choice and our choice!

In the Bible, God gives humanity the gift of life, Chaim. The first recorded murder appears in the Bible, when Cain killed Abel. As a result, Cain was cut off from his family. The Ten Commandments include the eternal principle of "Thou Shall not murder". However, self-defense is not regarded as murder. Mosaic law also states that the death penalty is a just punishment for murder, because life is sacred in the Bible. Not so in our culture. Today's Western culture is becoming more and more axed on death. Films and shows glorify and even reward death and violence. When I turn off my television set, I say: Le Chaim, to life. It is your choice to act and make a difference.

Celine Leduc, 17/February/2005

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