An Open Letter To Gary Zenkel Of NBC
July 30, 2012 in The Unbearable Lightness Of Television
Mr Zenkel. You don’t know me but you do now. I’m a writer based in Scotland and I founded and run Wordsmoker. You’re the man responsible for insulting the memory of 52 terrorist victims and the thousands of others effected by the London bombings in 2005, besides all your other crimes against television and the Olympic Ideal. Oh. One thing before I continue? I may be writing from Scotland, but the server I’m writing on? It’s based in Washington DC and Los Angeles, California. Does that sound strange? It isn’t. See – I wanted whatever I wrote protected under your rather good First Amendment, which if you don’t know? Gives the right to free speech. A bit like the right Guy Adams has. Or had. Before you got him kicked off of Twitter? Yeah. That Guy. Talk about hammering yet another nail into your own corporate coffin! Okay – let’s talk about hammering these nails into your corporate coffin. See, Gary? I think you’ve got – at best – a couple of days left in employment at NBC. If you’re not already mailing out your résumé to other, more popular television networks (I can think of three off the top of my head) then trust me – you should be. Unfortunately they might know of your recent track record, so be prepared to become one of these “living it large” welfare queens I hear so much about on Fox News. Gary – I think I can call you Gary – Gary?
I’m very angry at you. I’m one of the millions of UK citizens who sat and watched in horror as the London Bombings took place. I watched the BBC as the screen went red. I watched untold horror and unbelievable bravery that day. Maybe you remember it? It was the day right after London won the right to host the 2012 Olympics. I know you remember it. During the rather incredible opening ceremony to the London 2012 games just the other day, there was a clearly marked segment commemorating that terrible day. There was a voice-over introducing it, a beautiful song sung during it, and a rather haunting dance routine. This segment left me with tears in my eyes. I can’t be alone in the 27 million UK citizens who watched it in feeling this. I know I’m not. It was – and this is an understatement – “well received”. One of the high points in a wonderful ceremony with many wonderful (and surreal) high points.
It’s a crime you decided to omit this segment from NBC’s coverage of the opening ceremony. From what I heard, you ran a pre-recorded interview with Michael Phelps instead of it.
As I said – a bit of a crime, in retrospect.
See. By this one, rather idiotic, uncaring action, you insulted the deaths of 52 people on that dreadful day in London. A city that was on a collective high from winning the right to host the Olympics the day before. Not only the deaths of 52 people. All the hundreds and thousands who still suffer from that inhumane act of terrorism to this day. Gary? I can call you Gary now. Gary? Imagine this.
New York had won the right to host the 2012 Olympics. During the opening ceremony of the 2012 New York Olympics, the New York organising committee decides (and quite rightly) to pay tribute to all the people who died in New York on 9/11/2001 through an almost unimaginable act of terrorism. With me so far? Good. Okay – now imagine on the re-broadcast in the UK, the BBC decides to not broadcast this particular, touching part of the New York 2012 Opening Ceremony, but instead shows someone – how can I put this nicely? Someone who hasn’t much intellectual rigour? Yeah. Let’s go with that. The BBC edits out the part of the New York 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony which commemorated the deaths by terrorism of innocent New York citizens and instead runs a pre-recorded segment where someone without much intellectual rigour soft-balls questions at a swimmer. There is no reason given by this by the BBC. No apology. Nothing is said to the victims of terrorism. Nothing is said to their families, or the countless others and their countless acts of bravery and collective humanity on that day.
Gary? Still there? Are you sitting there right now, imagining this? Have you personally got the imagination to comprehend the anger this would generate? I hope you have. It’s the anger I feel. Now. Let’s imagine further. Put aside that the BBC is a uniquely funded, rather noble organisation. Can you see the producer responsible for this strange, almost surreal omission still staying in work at the BBC? I don’t think you can. In fact – can you imagine Mark Thomson, current Director General of the BBC, still staying in work at the BBC? Indeed – can you imagine everyone on the corporate ladder all the way up to the Director General of the BBC, everyone who had an input into the decision to omit a segment during a worldwide broadcast commemorating the deaths of the citizens of an Olympic host city at the hands of terrorism?
Honestly? Gary? The BBC Trust would be lucky to survive this. There would be questions raised in the House of Commons.
We’d be lucky if the United States didn’t invade the UK on general principle. You know. Just to win over our hearts and minds?
We’d have obviously committed a rather egregious and tasteless televisual crime.
And crimes like that should be paid for.
Gary. I don’t know why this was decided. And now? I don’t really care. But I know you’re the man responsible for NBC’s Olympic output over there. And if you’re the man responsible for the Olympic output on NBC, you should now leave your position. Like, now. You should write a heartfelt apology to every single family effected by those horrible actions in 2005. I don’t care if you knew what you were doing. In fact? I hope you didn’t. I really do. I hope you were completely unaware that the segment you omitted was paying respect to the victims of terrorism. Because if you did know what the segment was about? And you still decided to omit it?
I don’t know what to write here.
I hope you didn’t know.
I really do, Gary.
Anyway, Gary. Time’s getting on as Bob Dylan probably never said. Did you hear about the Bob Dylan thing? Somebody in showbusiness really made an error about Bob Dylan and had to leave their position. They’re being rightly castigated for their error, but in the scheme of things, in this business you call show? It’s not as painful, or as horrific as insulting the deaths of 52 innocent people. Which you did, just the other day. To compound this? You’re now getting journalists kicked off of Twitter for criticising you.
Gary? Still there? Want to try and get rid of this post? Want to try and get rid of Wordsmoker? Want to try and breach my server’s First Amendment Rights under your beloved Constitution?
Just try it, Gary. Because, as angry as I am now? This is nothing. I’m writing this out of the anger I feel. The anger generated by your actions. The anger I feel on behalf of innocent people killed by terrorism. The innocent people you, and NBC, insulted just the other day.
Have I been clear about this, Gary? Have I triggered what is commonly known as “empathy” within your soul? Are you getting this, Gary?
I hope you do. I hope – somehow – you manage to read this in-between getting Guy Adams thrown off of Twitter. I hope these words somehow reach you at NBC and you realise what you’ve done, and why you should never, ever work in television ever again. Even at NBC. Because, Gary? You don’t seem to be very good at it. And NBC – even though it shows Community – doesn’t seem very good at television either.
I can only advise that you leave your post now. For the good of television. For good itself.