THE BLOG
12/15/2010 09:51 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

CNN Warns of Graphic Shooting Video -- by Playing the Video

By now most of us probably get that often, broadcasters' "warnings" about disturbing footage are really teasers -- Shocking video ahead! Surely you wouldn't want to watch that, would you?

But yesterday (Dec 14, 2010) saw this brand of insincerity taken to a new, exploitative low. Coming out of his show's "Keeping 'Em Honest" segment (a worthwhile look at the court martial of birther Army Lt. Col. Terry Lakin), Anderson Cooper alerted viewers about video coming up after the commercials. The words were barely out of his mouth when he cut to one of the most disturbing parts of the footage in question: a man attempting multiple murders before himself being shot down.

Anderson Cooper warned us about shocking video -- by playing the video. Did you want to get your kids out of the room? Oh, gee, sorry.

After the break, we got to experience the full-length version -- over and over and over, and then in slow motion. At a meeting of the Bay District school board, a man named Clay Duke pulls out a pistol. After making some incoherent threats against the board members, he opens fire at close range. Luckily, and incredibly, he misses everyone he aims at. He is then shot several times by a security guard, and falls to the floor.

CNN spared us what reportedly happened next: Duke shooting himself in the head. Save for that, what we did see was close to what I imagine a snuff film to be like.

The behavior of at least two of the people in this story was heroic. Board member Ginger Littleton was allowed to leave by Duke, but then snuck up behind him and tried to knock the gun out of his hand with her purse. Then schools superintendent Bill Husfelt calmly tried to convince Duke to focus on him and let everyone else go.

The behavior of Anderson Cooper and CNN? For me, it set a new low for journalism. But at the same time, it just kind of went by. What we already thought was the low has been pushed lower so many times, people barely seem to notice when it happens again.