Film at 11… and 12… and 1… and 2…

Film at 11… and 12… and 1… and 2…

: Every TV news outlets played and replayed the tapes of the BTK killer coldly recounting his crimes yesterday. I watched it on MSNBC. After I left there last night, I listened to it in my car (via Sirius) on Fox and CNN, where Anderson Cooper devoted his entire show to the confession, saying that we would learn something.

But would we? What do we learn from the sick and evil?

I had the same reaction when I first watched Oz and as a result gave it a bad review in TV Guide… though I confess that I did end up watching the series, became riveted by it, couldn’t stay away.

Not to trivialize them by comparison, but we do the same with the perpetrators of massive crimes.

What is it about watching the worst in us? Is it merely sensationalistic voyeurism? Is is relief that we’re sane? Is it bad taste?

So I’m not sure what I think of last night’s instant obsession with the BTK video. I certainly don’t think it was educational. I did think there was something wrong about intruding on this last moment of truth for the victims and their families. I was a little bit ashamed of us all for showing and watching the tapes. But I can’t help but be chilled by the dead-cold soul of this man.

Did I listen to his words passively as producers packed them into the shows I tuned into? Yes.

Did I understand the judgment that went into playing these sickly compelling scenes? Of course. I’m a tab editor myself. I preach “impact.”

But here’s the new question: In a new world of get-the-news-I-want-when-I-want-it, would I have clicked on a link to watch the confession if I knew what I would hear? No, I don’t know why I would have.

So when we become our own editors and producers and pick the news we really want instead of the news others think we want, will we still be voyeurs? Or will we reveal the tabloid editors and producers to have been right about us all along? Who will end up having better or more sensational news judgment: the people or the press?

  • Kat

    I turned on the News and the rotten son of a bitch was talking. I know this creep thrives on media attention and I wasn’t about to give him mine. I used the clicker. His recounting of killing some woman because it satisfied his perverse fantasies was about to make me hurl. If they want to talk about him, show the bastard die on TV. By giving him airtime to speak, the media further feeds this parasite.

  • It was live on ALL cable news channels yesterday for about 15 straight minutes. You could almost feel the collective puckerhole of the country tightening up. Just when you thought your neighbors couldn’t get any more paranoid…

  • Ardy

    Nothing to learn is right. A cold-blooded, crazy killer is such an anomoly that he shouldn’t be of public concern at all. Let the families grieve in private.
    Before the 24/7 news cycle he would have gotten 90 seconds of air, but the giant time maw drives news directors and editors to fill the space with whatever is current–explosions, shark attacks, heat waves, floods.
    BTK was a one-day sensation. His sentencing will be one more day.

  • Adam

    “Or will we reveal the tabloid editors and producers to have been right about us all along?”
    There’s a reason CNN/Fox/etc/etc do it. It works. People watch. People talk.
    The company I work for does mainstream news. And it doesn’t matter if we play things high or not. People will find the crazy stories. The abused animals, the man stuck in a windshield, whatever. They will find it and hammer it and send it to their friends and read every dram of “information” we can squeeze out of it.
    It’s one of the things to fear about a time when content producers really know what their audiences want: They’ll just stop doing anything that matters.

  • How many times can news producers play those same lines and still people will watch? How many times have you seen the same cow stumbling as a file photo for mad cow disease? It would have been nice, as a kindhearted police chief told me, to remind listeners that a barking dog is a very good deterrent to crime.
    Did anyone else check out C-Span to find out about our troops being fed out of date food and more than 10,000 meals being served to nonexistent troops to make up for their losses by KBR? Just as coldblooded, if not violently wicked.

  • But here’s the other thing. As I watched yesterday and realized that ALL cable channels were showing the tabloid show live, I thought, this is real red-meat sorta stuff and there is no point to watching it on anything other than the tabloid-esque red-meat channel… and so I left it on Fox.
    Thus Greta gets record numbers covering Aruba, while if Aaron Brown does Aruba it won’t drive ratings at all. If CNN wants to get ratings out of something like this they have to use Nancy Grace or some other snark. Clearly what they should do is use Headline News to do tabloid-esque stuff and reserve the “regular” CNN for more heady, more important “real” news.

  • All I know is I changed the channel when I saw Anderson Cooper was going to devote the whole hour to BTK. If I want to learn what the guy did, I can read a quick summary online or a newspaper. Watching it over and over on TV just seemed pointless, and worse of all, like some commenters point out, it is giving him attention he definitely does not deserve. Bringing family members to recall the horror of losing a loved one to BTK was simply exploitative. I may wonder about what this fascination says about society, but I for one, am not giving him the guy the satisfaction of my attention. Channels can be changed, I would say to others to exercise that choice as well until BTK passes, and he will eventually pass as the news moves to the next one.

  • Steve C

    On XM, Opie and Anthony played the clip with The Shining soundtrack in the backround – then the same clip with the music from Benny Hill. I knew I wasn’t supposed to laugh, but I lost it anyway.

  • Achillea

    Didn’t know it was on. Wouldn’t’ve watched it if I had. Pandering to baser instincts while feeding an evil man’s lust for notoriety may well be marketable and perfectly legal, but I’ll neither approve nor participate.

  • whodat

    Well unfortunately–and I don’t quite understand the reasoning–he cannot receive the death penalty. Ex post facto, I think. Anyway, I would have said the coverage would have been a good thing if only to deter the candle-lighting vigils held for the scum of the earth like this guy when they are waiting to receive a stay from the Guvnah. He’s the perfect example of why the death penalty should remain.

  • melk

    It’s not over,of course.We’re still going to get Paula and Katie and Diane and Barbara doing their “Specials” with this guy.Exactly what he wants.His ultimate sexual kick will be describing what he did in detail to millions of television viewers.
    May he have a date with a Baggie in the pen.

  • Chris

    Well aware that my commentary just adds to this creaton’s mystique, I will say this: Untill we, as a society, are ready to call a spade a spade and put people like this down swiftly and without regret, we are doomed to suffer more of the same from others like him. Nuf Said. CB

  • What do we learn from the sick and evil?
    Is this is a serious question?
    What do we learn from studying polio? Smallpox? Cancer? AIDS? The Ebola virus? How to cure them, or, failing that, how to recognize these diseases for what they are and prevent them from causing harm.
    Surely that’s worth a peek at the mind of serial killer.

  • spaceman

    No doubt he had a troubled youth.

  • I think we’ll find that we seek out the less truly gruesome aspects of what is paraded before us now. We’ll probably tend more towards the trivial and silly when we have to be our own editors.
    Having the nastiness edited into a clip and presented as a stream for passive consumption allows the diffusion of the viewer’s responsibility in what they are watching.
    I will turn off a show that has become offensive to me, or that I feel doesn’t really have a place being broadcast (i.e. it’s detrimental trash, IMHO). My friends will say “What’s the difference if you turn it off? It’s still on somewhere else”.
    When we actively choose what we see, and know that each hit is tracked and logged, it changes that dynamic.

  • Fred Z

    I wish he and others like him had more exposure, so I could recognize his ilk and all of their characterestics.
    Hiding these people is like not showing the planes hitting the towers.
    We should see evil, often. Serial killers; the towers; old videos of Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao.
    Study. Learn. Never forget.

  • its incredible that this man did his horrific crimes and got away with it , and noone had a clue nothing , so that makes me shiver . So soon a made for Tv movie , wonder if he or his family get any proceeds ..Fry the SOB

  • What has happened that we, as the victims of a crime, feel some obligation to grant interviews, to feed this purile facination with evil? It has amazed me for years when parents put their child before the mass of cameras after they’ve experienced some ghastly trauma. The folks who were victimized by Mr. Rader (using his self-styled moniker feeds that damaged ego, and I refuse to take part) and those who lived in houses of the victims (article in today’s NY Times) is another example. I find this completely baffling .