“The movie didn’t kill anybody.”

By Gary L. Maydew

Scene from “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises”

We tuned into the local news at noon Friday, partly to learn more about the tragedy in Aurora, Colo. The coverage on WHO-TV was rather brief, a feed from the national news, followed by the inevitable Iowa connection. What came next, after some local news, floored my wife and me.

“Up next, enjoying the Batman movie at the IMAX,” the announcer cheerily stated in words to that effect. “Surely they won’t run that, given the circumstances,” I said to my wife. “It would be in incredibly poor taste.”

But we watched in astonishment and disgust as Channel 13 ran the segment. I immediately called the news desk. “I can’t believe you are running that segment on the Batman movie,” I said. “It is highly inappropriate.”

“The movie didn’t kill anybody,” he smarted back.

How do you respond to such a combination of facileness and insensitiveness? “You showed people wearing gas masks,” I said.

But I wondered. Is this what we have come to in the United States? Where we celebrate extremely violent movies by celebrating their openings with dress and costume that glorifies the violence? And can we truly expect that there is no connection with the celebration of that violence with the horrifying actions that took place in Aurora and occur with sickening regularity all over the United States.

The pursuit of money and power at the expense of ethical standards seems endemic throughout America, not just in the corporate boardrooms, but in government and nonprofit institutions as well. When such pursuit ruins our finances, devalues our homes and pollutes our environment, that is one thing. But such selfish goals pollute our society, when the movie industry and TV executives produce works that have the effect of tacitly abating and encouraging the violent and insane among us, that is quite another.

It has to stop, lest our society become and adult version of “Lord of the Flies,” a society where violence is endemic and the strong torment the weak with little fear of being corrected. As parents and grandparents, as uncles and aunts, we must demand more of the media. The tautology that the Batman movie did not kill anybody is not a satisfactory answer.

[Mr. Maydew is a retired accounting professor, Iowa State University, Ames. This letter appeared in The  Des Moines Register.]