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Disgust: It's All in How You Frame It

  • Lori Borgman Contributing Writer
  • 2004 3 Jun
Disgust:  It's All in How You Frame It

Enough with the hand wringing already. Enough of the broadcasters still showing the pictures from Abu Ghraib prison, still furrowing their brows, still shaking their heads, still asking how and why this happened.

The disgust and abhorrence at what happened is sincere. It is the “how could anybody do this?” portion of the hand wringing that echoes hypocrisy.

Today the broadcasters are disgusted, but stay tuned – next week they’ll roll out the red carpet and interview the director and cast of "Perversion in Paradise," and "Bloody, Bloody Funday."

This morning they’re sickened, but tonight at 9 you can catch the latest "Mating Game," where young men and women track one another like wild animals and grant each other the same measure of dignity they would offer a raw side of beef.

The entire group of broadcasters on the couch is (tsk-tsk) appalled. But they need to smile now, because they’re going to bring the latest tweener idol on stage – a gal who wardrobe shops at novelty stores for sado-masochists – for a fun and perky interview. 

Yes, they’re really, really concerned about the degrading acts in Iraq, and they’d like to explore the issue more, but first a plug for another sitcom where porn is a laughing matter and a paternity test is positively hilarious.

Bless their sheltered little hearts, they’ll resume hand wringing as soon as they can.

Hand winging may be pseudo-therapeutic for some, but it has little real value for most. We’d all be better off wrapping our hands around this: If dehumanizing behavior disgusts us in a prison in Iraq, then it should disgust us in the form of entertainment here in the States.

While on a treadmill at the gym, I glanced up at the bank of televisions suspended from the ceiling. The TV directly in front of me was tuned to MTV and the closed caption feature was on. A beefy guy strutted on stage and the crowd went wild.

He sang a couple of lines about finding a girl, walked toward the edge of the stage and made eyes at pretty, freshly-scrubbed 20-somethings swooning in the front row.  He focused on a young woman with long brown hair and sang, “I’m goin’ to get you, I’m goin’ to get you and I’m goin’ to –“ Sorry, end of quote. What followed was obscene. If the star did what he said he was going to do, the young woman would require delicate surgery involving consultations from a gynecologist and proctologist.

Here’s the disgusting thing – the young woman he was singing to was mouthing the lyrics along with him. And smiling. Any woman with a brain would have whipped out a canister of mace and blasted the guy. But this one appeared to welcome injury to her own body. At some point, these two people crossed a threshold that caused them to cease thinking of themselves as human beings made in the image of God and instead think of themselves as animals foraging in the wilderness. (As a man thinks in his heart, so he is. Proverbs 23:7)

Torture experts agree that a key element of sadism is dehumanization. When one person dehumanizes another person against his or her will in Iraq, we call it horrifying. When one person dehumanizes another person with his or her consent and cooperation before a camera from a cable network or a film production company, we call it entertainment.

Call it horrifying or call it entertainment, the disgust is real and the stench is the same.

Columnist and speaker Lori Borgman is the author of "Pass the Faith, Please." Comments may be sent to her at

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