Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Has Television Become the Propaganda Machine for Conservative Values?

by Nomad

Sometimes it's hard to realize how compliant commercial television is compliant when it comes to lowering our sense of compassion for the poor. I'm not talking about its overall narcotic effect. 
It's what TV shows don't reveal about reality that's important.

It wouldn't be the first time that critics have accused television of being a corporate propaganda machine, of course. But what seems to be happening today is a little more devious. 

Selling products is one thing but the problem goes way beyond using TV to sell detergent and watches. It has become a effective tool of selling a philosophy of greed and intolerance.

"Where's the TV Program that...?"
Today a Facebook entry from Brit Owen Jones caught my eye. He took offense to a new TV program in the UK called Benefits Street. The premise of the show is basic: the poor that draw government assistance are defrauding the taxpayers, little more than "anti-social benefit scroungers, irresponsible parents, drug-takers and foul-mouthed wasters." 
(Expect Murdoch's Fox Entertainment to import this local variant to American television at any moment.)
Owen Jones' remarks deserved a shout out, I thought:

Where's the TV show about low-paid workers struggling on in-work benefits or unemployed people desperate for work?

Where's the TV show about low paying bosses and private landlords scrounging off the welfare state with low pay and rent subsidies?

Where's the TV show about rich tax dodgers who are hiding £25 billion from the public purse while millions struggle?

Where's the TV show about £16bn of benefits unclaimed by working and unemployed people, compared to £1.2bn benefit fraud?

Most social security goes to pensioners who pay in all their life. Most working-age benefits go to working people. 6.5m people are chasing full-time work

Make everyone think unemployed people are scroungers, and let the bankers and tax-dodgers get away with it.

Clever, really

Where indeed? Well, hating the poor is so much easier. They talk so poorly and they dress so poorly and they seem so alien and unattractive when you compare it to the Romneys and the Bushes of the world. 
After all, those who succeed- however they do it- are supposed to be worthy of our admiration. Right?

Americans as a rule prefer fiction to truth. They seem mesmerized by "Breaking Bad" (drug dealers as heroes) or transfixed by exploding zombie craniums in "Walking Dead." (while we all pay lip service to school shootings) How can reality compare with that!?
And you will notice that TV episodes are now being treated as news events, further blurring the line between reality and fiction.
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A Far Cry from the Progressive Era
It is important to recall that during the progressive era, people like Charles Dickens ("Are there no prisons?"), Mark Twain, (The Gilded Age) and later Upton Sinclair used the tools of fiction to highlight the reality of poverty or the underclass in their respective countries. What resulted was the finest literature ever produced.

Journalists like W.T. Stead and non-fiction authors and artists played their part in awakening social consciousnesses as in the photography of Jacob Riis and the muckraking journalism of the era. What resulted was the journalism that activated a nation to improve and show a little self-respect.

Humanity in Retrograde

“Poverty is like punishment for a crime you didn’t commit” — Eli Khamarov

Today television seems to promote the worst aspects of human nature and it cons people into believing that some people just deserve to be victims of the system. 
According to the new way of thinking- which is actually retrograde- the poor certainly don't deserve our help, either through the government programs or through charity associations.
As one loyal fan of "Benefits Street" commented on Facebook:
"They should all be spayed and neutered. Procreation among these people just leads to a new generation of pathetic scum."
This way of responding was not so long ago reflected in a statement Missouri Rep. Paul Fitzwater (R) on why he opposes Obamacare:
“When you go to the zoo, there’s a sign that says please don’t feed the animals. There’s a reason, because they keep coming back.”
It wasn't the first time a Republican conservative compared the poor to animals. in 2010, without any shame or embarrassment, South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer told the Greenville News
"My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better."
Sad to think his grandma's advice was the only spiritual lessons this man ever received when the Bible is full of quotes about our common duty to help the poor, the ill and the weak.
According to conservative compassion, neutering and starvation are the answers then? (But then in Oklahoma they promote marriage -without the advantages of birth control- as the answer to poverty!)

That old saying "There, but for the grace of God, go I" is about as obsolete as portable typewriters, eight-track tapes and black and white televisions sets.