Monday, August 20, 2012

Going Down Down Down, Down Down

What are the hallmarks of a culture in decline? If we look at historical examples like the last days of the mighty Roman empire we see all manner of amoral/immoral diversions and amusements. If we look at our own, we see TV shows like "Honey Boo Boo." This program explores the daily life and adventures of an obnoxious child, looking more like the spawn of Porky Pig, and her even more ignorant family. The latter was the subject of a recent Today show segment asking a couple of journalist pundits to comment on the appeal of this TLC (The learning Channel) pseudo documentary about the lives of (in their words) a "redneck" family and their daughter, the aforementioned HBB. That these people are idiots becomes translated into "people being themselves." That the parents, one of whom is bordering on morbidly obese, are about the worst models of parenting makes no difference. Right now, it's cheap programing cost that is trumping any form of intellectual curiosity. It works well in an increasingly voyeuristic culture. In fact the recent spate of TV shows giving viewers glimpses into the lives of compulsive hoarders, religious colonies, hog and gator hunters, and all manner of child "beauty pageants," must have lowered our collective IQ, right? Are media executives and their corporate sponsors trying to hasten our decline? Not knowingly. It's just Gatsby's green light shining bigger and brighter than ever. If you show it they will watch. They laugh and text and telephone and slobber on themselves, and the media moguls go to the bank faster and more often than we did last year. At what cost? What Marx called the opiate of the masses is now the religious worship of unreality TV. We prefer the inner lives and workings of alcoholics, the obsessive compulsive, the dysfunctional, and the hyper-materialistic, than the reality of our involvement in Afghanistan, the systemic genocide of a Middle Eastern dictator on his own people, the consequences of climate change, genetically altered food, Wall Street thieves. The real irony, of course, is that much of this repugnant programing occurs on The Learning Channel. Learning what?

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