Don't talk about the shooting

The season finale of FBI did not air this year.  Usually, season finales are rather big deals for television shows, setting up the next season or wrapping up an ongoing storyline.  But this year, it didn’t matter.

On Tuesday, May 24, an 18-year-old gunman entered an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and shot 19 children, all 11 years or younger, along with two teachers.  So CBS felt that running an episode about a fictional school shooting that same night would be inappropriate and offensive.

They weren’t wrong.  The public outcry as parents mourned their innocent children was palpable.  And even now, the episode still hasn’t been run.  Who knows if it will ever make it to air.

But I have to wonder, what’s the difference between airing it that night … or a few weeks later?

Despite the national shock and horror at this senseless massacre, nothing changed afterward.  In the seven days following Texas, there were 17 more mass shootings.  (“Mass shootings” defined as incidents of four or more victims.)

Apparently, “shock and horror” isn’t slowing anyone down.  In fact, a recent poll found that 44 percent of Republicans felt that mass shootings are “something [to be] accepted as part of a free society.”  (Insert horrified gasp here.)

So if the FBI finale had aired as planned, who exactly would it have offended?  I doubt the families of the Uvalde victims weren’t rushing home to watch FBI that night.  And frankly, they’re the only ones whose feelings need protecting.  Everyone else either doesn’t care or really should talk about it.

Was it a concern that the episode would give some unstable viewer an idea about duplicating the crime in real life?  That’s the theory that’s been floated around since the 1960’s.

But according to research on the subject over the last six decades, violent actions seldom result from a single cause.  So one season finale would not like to send someone over the edge.

Studies have also noted that when it comes to violence in media, the storyline is important in its influence on viewers.  How do the characters react to the violence?  Are there repercussions for their actions?  A show like FBI is essentially a fable, designed to emphasize that good should triumph over evil.  And when taking a life, even in order to save others, there is always fallout for everyone involved.

As of June 5, there have been 246 mass shootings in the U.S. in parks, churches, and grocery stores; at festivals, on the freeway, and in private homes.  And CBS was worried about offending people with a television show?

Taking a show off the air in order to be sensitive to viewers is certainly well-intentioned.  But if you ask the grieving families what they’re really upset about, they’ll likely talk about the government’s ineffectiveness to change American gun laws.  Not what’s on CBS.

Americans can get a show cancelled or a million dollar star fired in a week, but they can’t seem to change a law to make people safer from gun violence.  And THAT’S truly offensive.