Juvenal, the ancient Roman poet, had a phrase for it: “bread and circuses.” By that he meant keep the rabble distracted from their woes with entertainment of the grossest kind. Spectacle! Blood and guts! Fights to the grisly death! “We who are about to die salute you!”
A&E has revived the Roman tradition, slicked it up with commercial breaks and phony “reality,” and packaged it as “must-see” entertainment, from the titillating bigotry of Duck Dynasty, to the hard-hitting tell-it-like-it-completely-isn’t sympathy-for-the-dear-ol’-KKK “documentary,” to the three-handkerchief-per-episode scripted hate-fest that was the Leah Remini show.
A&E’s TV travesties often had consequences in the actual real world. Remini’s work, for example, has been linked to one murder, 600 threats or acts of violence against the Church of Scientology and its members, and five arson attacks against Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Halls.
Here’s hoping that the evidence against A&E proves that justice still prevails.
But A&E, in the true spirit of fearless medieval mayhem, outdid itself, sparking and filming an actual death. Javier Ambler, unarmed, guilty of nothing but possibly driving with his brights on, was stopped, tasered, hurled to the ground and restrained until he died while Live PD cameras rolled.
Cameras do something to a person. They bring out the performer in us all. But when the person you’re performing on dies, there is no “take two.”
Apparently A&E felt there was something wrong with their footage that night because they destroyed it, leaving no one, not even Javier’s family, to know exactly what happened to their dad, son, partner. Of course, when footage contains a criminal act, it’s no longer called “footage” but “evidence” and when one destroys it, one is no longer called “a TV network,” but rather “co-conspirator.”
Here’s hoping that the evidence against A&E proves that justice still prevails. Here’s hoping that the death and pain and dismay that A&E has caused through its “programming” rebounds upon its executives. Here’s hoping that there is justice for the A&E suits who paid to get the cameras rolling, and for the Disney execs who keep this abomination of a network on the air.
There will be no “take two” for Javier Ambler, whose last words, heard a year later by his still-grieving family, were “save me.” And there should be no “take two” for the thugs who attempt to foist upon us a culture of hate, tragedy and death and rebrand it “Arts & Entertainment.”