DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.
“And it’s true we are immune, when fact is fiction and T.V. reality.”
U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday (1983)
Simply put, the news media has the power to turn entire demographics of people from ordinary citizens with wants and needs into cartoon characters. Who those demographics are is no matter, since anyone can be thrown to the lions for cheap entertainment to those who watch it. This is not simply about shows like “The Simpsons” or “Family Guy,” because the stereotypes that are depicted in them are meant to be exaggerated and not taken seriously, whereas the stereotypes in the real-world influence the political sphere, creates the legislation, and have real-world consequences. The news media is also instrumental in deepening the division in this country by taking a small number of criminals even in an age when violent crime has declined consistently since the ’90s.
Maybe it is true that a small number of people within each demographic commits the crimes that the stereotypes proport, that completely ignores how the extrapolation would apply to the majority who do not do those actions. By focusing on that minority and having them represent the majority, you are inadvertently giving that minority exponentially more power to dictate how the rest of the group should be treated. Think about it this way: you are giving them power by obsessing over them.
Though it is not just from one partisan view of the news that is focused on specific groups, rather the news media is an amorphous force that is willing to make all people afraid of any demographic–all for a bag full of crowns and sovereigns.
For instance, people diagnosed with a mental illness are portrayed as these bloodthirsty monster (even though mentally ill people are more of a risk to themselves than to other people, but actual facts do not matter to the media machines fueled by fear and division). The way in which people perceived is based on many dimensions of narrowing analysis by news corporations, so it does not matter whom is saying it, because they do not see me as an individual with my own problems, rather as just a ratings-booster.
These types of negative, misleading imageries can affect everyone, who then experience them in their daily lives. I have not experienced the types of treatments in an extreme level that can occur as a result from the media, though it may be because I do not deal with a lot of people. Still, that possibility does remain should I actually start dealing with more people.
As an alternative to receiving up-to-date information, I usually prefer documentary channels like VICE, which seek to get the full story that is not narrowed down. They can also use up to an hour to focus on a narrow topic whereas the news only focus on a few minutes. They also try to hear all of the sides on the same issue, such as getting both the Americans’ and Kuwaitis’ perspectives on the introduction of fast-food chains in Kuwait; or hearing from Romani’s and non-Romani’s. When the limitations on the news media create the narrowed views of demographics, the solutions are murky at best, rather the closest type of solution would be to not give it power either through social media or otherwise.
However, there are plenty of people who want to give these stereotypes their power for their own amusement. Whether it would be tabloid talk shows or reality shows, like the “Jerry Springer Show” and “Judge Judy,” they are the perfect reasons why I think ants deserve to replace humans as the dominant species. This article may have been pessimistic, but honestly what is more pessimistic than having five kids by three different daddies? It really depends on how any of us internalize that pessimism.
If you do so to derive pleasure from these shows, if you feel the need to be entertained by people who are worse off than you (and not even view them as catharses in order to feel grateful for the life you have), then I do not harbor anger towards you for feeding into this type of reality; rather I feel sorry for you, that this has to encompass your entire identity.
It is very easy to laugh at the people on the shows and their foolishness, but remember that a lot of them have children. Since their parents are on these shows being humiliated in front of millions of people, they see that foolishness as a guide to life. That is what really saddens me.
Not only do the children become disregarded, but also the participants themselves, who are dehumanized and turned into cartoon characters. We do not look upon them as real-life people who have wants and needs, rather we narrow in on their mistakes and poor choices. The reality is that we have all have made mistakes and poor choices. Maybe not at their levels, but how can we say that we are any different? Do you REALLY feel entertained watching an authority figure using her position of power to insult the plaintiff and defendant knowing full well that it would be unacceptable if the reverse happened? You do not even need to look at it from a Marxist lens to realize how screwed up this power dynamic really is.
Of course, if I owned a tabloid talk show, I can understand in some weird sociopathic way why they continue to be aired. If I am being incentivized to exploit the problems of my country, why would I give it up just to see life get better and fix these problems when it is easier to make a buck out of them? Would you really consider your motivation to be the voice of the people or the common cry of curs? However, that type of thinking might not last society in the long-term.
This is when I start wondering what really happens to the guests after the shows. What befall the ones who get berated by Judge Judith Sheindlin? Do they suffer humiliation and ostracization in their daily lives that lead them to lose their jobs because their companies do not want the “idiot” from a show representing them; and this eventually leads them to drug abuse and/or suicide? Do the people who go on Maury Povich’s show become jaded about love when their partners cheat on every person in the neighborhood? Referring back to the children, do they become stigmatized into becoming social outcasts because of their parents’ decision to air their drama to millions of people; and this results in their struggling in social and academic life?
How many people have to be destroyed before we look internally at ourselves and say “You know what? None of this is worth the viewership or the ratings. We as a species need to do better.”
I know it sounds like a cynical reason for not engaging in any form of debauchery, but the reason why I try to avoid doing wrong is not because of some abstract, governing principle that tells me what I can or cannot do, rather I do not want to feed into a system that is designed to exploit my problems. In other words, I do not want to give people who are running these tabloid talk shows what they want. This is why I would prefer metaphorically smashing the television and just walking away and moving on with my life.
Image Attribution: Pixabay