Imagine if police in a major city were to uncover a plot in which a serial killer was found to be planning to use the Internet to unleash a cult of followers who would also engage in serial killings. Imagine further, if police found as evidence an ice pick impaling a woman’s eye.
Such a revelation would be enough to dominate the headlines at least for a couple days even in our sensationalist culture. It would unleash calls for limiting the use of weapons employed in the planned crimes. It would give rise to endless commentary and futile soul-searching by those who would ask how society failed the unfortunate individuals involved. And then all would fade into the background without resolution.
The above mentioned plot was not uncovered by police. It is, however, the plot of a new television series that premiers this January on Fox television. The 15-episode series called “The Following” has in its first show the image of an ice pick impaling a woman’s eye. Apparently the show would have been even grislier had not the network itself stepped in and insisted that the program conform to certain “guidelines.” The producers were asked to tone down a slit-throat scene.
“The Following” is not a particularly exceptional program; it is one among many such shows that producers hope will boost ratings. Not even the recent massacres seem to have hindered its release. For producers, it is blood and gore as usual.
Such a program should raise questions as to the higher purpose of the arts, what lessons are to be learned or what values are being imparted to the audiences. However, the media admit no high purpose to the arts they produce. They claim such programs are there to entertain or amuse. It’s just entertainment. “The Following” is a thriller that must produce thrills. In a society where the sense of horror is dulled, programs must present ever more grisly scenes to produce its thrills. Media claim they are simply following the market.
Such groveling to base instincts is not the purpose of the arts. Art used to express the spirit and beauty of a culture. Today, the arts, if they can be called such, are made to produce sensations and thrills. Arts should inspire and uplift. They now fascinate and degrade.
The object of the arts should be toward those sublime things that should serve to inspire society toward the good, true and beautiful. A culture turned towards the sublime uplifts those who would otherwise detain themselves with the purely ordinary and common. Art should draw individuals outside themselves in wonder, and so opposes the inward egoistic vices that drive people to disgrace. Such inspiration makes men capable of dedication, admiration and great feats. It ultimately leads men to God.
Modern programming does the opposite. It serves to break down the barriers that separate men from the horrors of their basest acts and instincts. It encourages and glorifies the breaking of taboos, conventions and morals. Despite denials from the media, these programs do impart a wrong message and a macabre agenda that tends to the bad, the false and the ugly.
In the soul-searching over how America has become a land of violence, people ask how it is possible that society has produced individuals capable of such monstrous crimes. Part of the answer lies in the fact that television and media have become the how-to manuals of those who become monsters.
We need a return to order.