Article Overview:  What happens when you rip Terror from the headlines?  Does it reflect the good or the bad of humanity?  Does it feed or starve the Beast of Terror.  One television show thrives on the Beast of Terror's thirst to kill, maim and rip other human beings to pieces, but is it a Forum of Vigilance or one of Terror?  Find out.


Wednesday--April 23, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 588
Ripping Terror From The Headlines

Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

GROUND ZERO, New York City, Apr. 23--Tecnology instills Terrorism in our society.  It plants the seed of Terror in the fertile minds of our youth, fertilizing the future of the Beast of Terror.   It can be said Terrorism is ripped from the headlines, and spoon fed to the innocent, the pliable and booby trapping them into future acts of violence.

         One example of the "sowing of Terror Seeds" comes from the Illinois Center for Violence, a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of interpersonal violence, including family violence (child, partner, and elder abuse); sexual assault; youth violence; gang and gun violence; and hate crimes. 
         The Center holds that Terrorism's mulch invades the homes of millions of American children each day as a result of modern technology--specifically television.   Its studies show the burden a child undergoes as he or she sifts through countless acts of violence during the maturation process, and suggests a direct link between violent (Terroristic) behavior and the programs children watch.   Below are some of the Center's statistics on violent television viewing.

From Illinois Center for Violence 

       The average youngster in the United States aged 2-5 years is watching about 27 hours of television per week or most four hours a day (1) and a typical child will watch 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence on television before completing elementary school (2) Young violent offenders report that, as children, they were watching an average of 6 hours of television per day.(3)

bulletDuring one day of television viewing in 1992, the Center for Media and Public Affairs reported that there were 1,846 scenes containing violent episodes with serious assaults occurring in 21 percent of the scenes. Gun play was featured in 20 percent of the scenes followed by isolated punches and pushing which each appeared in 15 percent of the scenes. Menacing threats with weapons were made in 12 percent of the scenes observed.(11)
bulletIn 1980, the most violent television shows in the nation tended to portray 15 to 20 violent incidents per hour. By 1992, twenty-five percent of the prime-time shows in the schedule were "very violent" and many programs were showing 40 or more violent incidents per hour. One program "Young Indiana Jones" led the field with 60 incidents in an hour.(12)

          There is one television show, however, that makes it a mission to expose the underbelly of violence, and to illustrate the high price one pays when the law of human justice is violated.
          That show is Law & Order.
          Last night, my wife and I attended a "fan club" celebration of Law & Order, at New York University.   Two of its major stars sat on a panel, along with the executive producer and a well known television writer.

Law and Order celebrated its 300th episode and was honored by the city of New York

         The event celebrated the 300th Law & Order episode shot on location in New York City this month.  Law & Order is the longest-running drama series on primetime television, and holds the record for consecutive outstanding Emmy nominations.  It is tied with "Cheers" and "M*A*S*H at 11 each.
         Each show begins with the Voice of Steve Zirnkilton narrating the opening with his famous prologue:


"In the criminal justice system, the people are separated by two separate yet equally important groups--the police who investigate crime and the District Attorneys who prosecute the offenders.  These are their stories..."

         In attendance was Michael Chernuchin, executive producer, moderator J. Max Robins, Senior Editor, TV Guide, S. Epatha Merkerson who plays a black woman lieutenant, and its chief actor prosecutor, Sam Waterson.
          Put on by the Center for Communications and sponsored by Court TV, the seminar was packed by what promotion literature claims is the "smartest and most loyal demographic in television."
         Waterson, who plays Jack McCoy said that the show will continue to thrive as long as human beings have an infinite imagination to kill other human beings.  His comment was chilling.   It was the truth, for as long as the Beast of Terror goes unchecked, unmanaged and unbridled, he will rear his ugly head and attack the least likely, the most unsuspecting of victims.

Michael Chernuchin is a Peabody Award winner with four Emmy nominations

         Adding to his comment, Chernuchin, a Peabody Award winner who has acquired four Emmy nominations for his writing, said that writers don't use much imagination to come up with story ideas.  "Our bible," he said, "is the front page of the New York Post."
         Law & Order is known for "ripping its stories" from the headlines of newspapers.   When a murder or major crime occurs and hits the front page, it is almost immediately converted to a Law & Order show.  "Reality is far more fascinating than fiction," Chernuchin said.   He noted the only time the show hesitated to air a story "ripped from the headlines" was during the Washington D.C. sniper rampage that took 13 lives.
         "We waited until the sniper was caught," he said.  "We didn't want to feed his ego."
        At a Standing Room Only crowd in New York University's Tisch Hall, Waterson shuffled around the question of whether the media--specifically television--led society's tastes by promoting violence, or whether it was driven to only report what already exists, acting only as a mirror to human madness rather than a creator of it.   He didn't come up with a definitive answer and took the safe middle ground, suggesting it was a trade off between the media pulling the public toward violence by airing so much of it, and, the natural nature of man- and womankind to perform acts of violence simply from their nature.

S. Epatha Merkerson represented a black woman role model in the media, capable of filling a lead role

        S. Epatha Merkerson who portrays police Lt. Anita Van Buren, has been on the show for a decade.   She cited how she had a negative attitude toward police, the law, and any concept of justice before being picked to head up the detective team that represents the first half of every Law & Order episode.   The show's formula is to show the actual crime being committed in the first half, and the prosecution of it in the second half.
       Ms. Merkerson  represents the team of Law & Order TerrorHunters that include Lenny Brisco (Jerry Orbach) and Green (Jesse L. Martin).  Their jobs are to  hunt down  and arrest the criminal in the first half and then turn the "perf" rover for prosecution.
        She also noted she represented a black woman role model in the media, capable of filling a lead role.  She said she only watched the second half of the show - the part that didn't involve her character.
        One of the key questions raised by Law and Order is the degree of violence in America and the world, and whether or not it is rising or falling.
        Arguments hail on either side, but one thing is sure, that the imagination of the human mind to inflict pain and suffering on other human beings is endless.
        When writer Chernuchin was asked what was his favorite story regarding "killing," he had to pause and think.  "There are so many," he said, holding his forehead in thought.
         Law & Order isn't a fat format.  That is, sometimes the "bad guy" wins and gets off, "just like in real life," Waterson said.  Waterson never watches the show.
         Unlike most dramas, the audience knows very little about the characters' personal lives.  "We don't delve into what's behind the personality," Waterson said.  "It's like reading a book.  Something transpires between the reader and the words on the page.   You create your own opinion about the character by watching."
          The issue on the table about Law & Order is Terror.  Does it promote or inhibit Terror?  Does it "headline it?"

Sam Waterson has starred in film, television and on stage, earning critical acclaim and a host of awards

        "Who knows..." responded Waterson, shrugging his shoulders ala Jack McCoy.   "Who knows."
          But someone does know.
          In a world of violence, the L&O show's success is in part about the moral hunt to prosecute bad acts.    It is about civilization wrestling with the Beast of Terror in his most primitive environment--murder, death, brutality of one human being to another.
         If there is one major benefit the show presents to the world, it is that the Sentinels of Vigilance, both represented by the police on one side and the prosecution on the other, have an endless task of chasing the Beast of Terror down.
         But where the show falls short is that it doesn't rip out the roots of Terrorism, it only cuts down already grown trees.
        The roots of Terrorism begin at home, in the formation of the child's attitude toward himself or herself and others.
        If a child is treated as a nail, and the parents act as a hammer, then the child will probably grow up the same way, a powder keg about to explode.
        Terrorism is about inflicting Fear, Intimidation and Complacency upon another, and it is magnified when it happens to a child.  
        Law & Order comes to the rescue at the end of the play, when the blood has been spilled.  It serves a lesson only in the penalty for the crime, and has little to do with its cause.

J. Max Robbins moderated the panel and is senior editor of TV Guide

        The cause of acts of Terrorism is the perpetuation of the Beast, the nurturing of it, and often the feeding of it by parents and guardians who have little control over their own Beasts, and who often refuse to recognize they are children of the Beast.
        While it isn't the job of Law & Order to change society, it is part of the job to show the result of humanity's lack of Vigilance to Terrorism, and that makes L&O a huge success.  It reports on the fault of human beings to manage the Beast.
         Along the line, in the history of television, there might be room one day for a television show called the Sentinels of Vigilance.  It will be about TerrorHunters who climb into people's minds and hunt down Fear with Courage, Intimidation with Conviction, and Complacency with Right Action.
         It may never be as popular as Law & Order because if a TerrorHunter does his or her job right, there is no blood, no murder, no rape, no mayhem.  
         The battle is about what is right, not who is the most criminal, and therefore will probably not have high ratings.
        Let's hope one day the Sentinels of Vigilance will open with this.   "In the Vigilance Justice System, the people are separated by two separate yet equally important groups--the TerrorHunters who search down Fear, Intimidation and Complacency--and the Sentinels of Vigilance who replace these weapons of Terror with Courage, Conviction and Right Actions for the Children's Children's Children's.   These are their stories...."

Law and Order  "out takes"


April 22--The Case For Pre-Emptive Terrorism Strikes

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