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Suicide Watch – The Awkward Contrition Of Shepard Smith And Fox News
It’s kind of a weird thing to watch Shepard Smith when he gets sincere. First of all, I’ve always felt that Shepard looked vaguely like Laura Palmer’s dad from Twin Peaks, so stunned contrition represents a jarring departure from the conditioned, smarmy death’s head smirk that’s been plastered on his face since Fox News overtook CNN and MSNBC. On Friday, Shepard found himself in the hot seat while Fox News followed a high speed chase in Arizona to its grim conclusion.
Having already been boiled down by the forces of the Internet, all that’s left of the clip is the penultimate moment. The chase, in retrospect, rendered irrelevant. The jacked vehicle, a small maroon SUV, is parked in a clearing, apparently off to the side of a freeway. The suspect jumps out. He is the only person in the frame. Smith describes the scene, and you can hear the reticence in his voice. “Um…I don’t know. No…” he says, with a wariness that indicates he knows this one isn’t going into overtime. The suspect flails as he runs, tripping and tumbling his way. Then he stops, his back to the chopper filming the scene. The suspect pulls a gun from his pocket and puts one in his own temple. After the shot, the body remains upright for a split second before dropping to the dirt.
What Smith doesn’t realize is that the feed he is narrating is on delay, while the live feed goes out to the viewing public. It isn’t his fault, and you can hear Smith calling for the dump, genuinely trying to cork the bottle seconds after the genie has already escaped.
Here is the clip, which I will warn you contains the actual suicide followed by Smith’s desperate attempt to keep it from airing, and his disgust in realizing that it’s too late.
Moments later, Smith returns to air to apologize to the viewers. Like all great apologies, Smith’s begins with an impromptu Desi Arnaz impression, as Shep tells the audience he has “some ‘splaining to do.” Granted the guy was probably pissing himself a bit under the weight of what had just happened, but given that contrition is a tone seldom used on Fox News to begin with, it might have been more advisable to stick to standard apologetic talking points. Instead, Shepard Smith offers a convoluted breakdown of the process of building up tape delay time for air, and then cops to the fact that the network had essentially blown it at the critical moment.
Here’s the apology:
Now I live, for all practical purposes, under a rock, so if there is a furor cranking up over this, I’m not really aware of it. The airing of the suicide certainly seems like a genuine accident, and the apology for that airing, if stilted and awkward, seems genuine as well.
But what are we really apologizing for here?
Fox News is a national network. And in 2012, for a national news network, there is absolutely no such thing as a slow news day. If you are to believe anything else that Fox News tells you, you’ll know that we are a nation adrift, at the mercy of a foundering economy, in the midst of yet another stupid fucking election cycle, with the bubble about to burst on our God-fearing, capitalist lives.
So why are we breaking to follow a car chase in Arizona? What was it that you were hoping to capture as you broke the story that a $12,000 Nissan had been stolen in the desert?
Sometimes you get what you’re asking for without even asking for it.
There’s nothing to apologize for, Shepard. Who could’ve known that after forcibly stealing a car from its rightful owner and then leading one of the most gung-ho police forces in the country on a high speed chase, that the suspect might do something nutty?
And quite frankly, that was the part we were all waiting for anyways, so no apologies are necessary. It’d be a bit like Steve Wilkos apologizing for showing a hair extension being ripped out in the middle of a baby mama brawl, or PornHub apologizing for leaving in the snowball shot at the end of Cumshitters 6. Take heart, Shep. It’s the truest thing that’s run on that network in the last decade. If you’re going to cover the Thug Life beat, this is the kind of thing that you’re going to run into. If you can’t get through it without your upper lip quivering, don’t cover it in the first place.
And don’t worry about us, Shep. We’ve all seen a billion fucking people blow their heads off. If the clip wasn’t titled and covered in the news, I probably would barely have noticed the killshot at all. We’re conditioned for this kind of stuff. Rock on.