Friday, February 20, 2009

The view from inside

Since I have been ill and confined to the house, I have had to decide what to do about my time. The medications I take make it difficult for me to concentrate, and so I find that any serious work is out of the question. I can no more write or research heavy subject matter in my current state of mind than I could operate heavy machinery.

And so, in addition to reading - mostly World War I flying memoirs and books on the history of mountaineering; two subjects that have engaged me since I was a boy - I have watched a good deal of television. Now, formerly I rarely watched television, and have done so recently purely to pass the empty hours. And what I have seen has given me pause.

Most of what is on television is worthless, time-wasting nonsense. I am shocked by both the quality and content of contemporary TV. And this extends from the so-called entertainment programs to the so-called news programs. Indeed, I find, there is rather little to distinguish them from one another. I watched, for example, the KTLA morning 'news' in the hope of seeing my younger girl interviewed. As a result, I had to watch the entire sorry spectacle. The people who host this program, like the ones who host the Good Day LA show on Channel 11 at the same time, are silly, vapid, puerile purveyors of what they try to pass off as news and local interest. Instead, they expose themselves at every opportunity as buffoons who have nothing to say and a shocking amount of time in which to say it.

I have been scandalized, too, at what passes for serious news reporting. As one flips from one news show to another, one cannot help but be struck by the political agendas that dominate these outlets. The news readers - for they cannot be called journalists - and the commentators are so heavily and unashamedly biased in favor of one side or the other as to make one wonder whether one is, in fact, watching the reporting of the same news stories, so slanted are their presentations. What has happened to the integrity of television journalism? It is, as far as I can see, non-existent, and the concept of objectivity has disappeared without a trace.

The entertainment shows are crass, stupid, pointless, vulgar and insulting in their content and in their presentation. I am amazed at the trash, the violence and the human degradation that is broadcast in the name of popular entertainment. Thirty years ago, even twenty years ago, much of this would not have been allowed on the public airwaves, and fifty years ago, when I was a boy, none of it could have been aired. And yet, I note that any effort to stem this tide of dehumanizing filth and vulgarity meets with scorn in the left-wing circles which appear to have taken over the airwaves.

There are some exceptions, of course. I have found programs on the history and science channels which are both entertaining and informative. The occasional classic movie is a rare treat. But the cable movie channels seem to have cornered the market on human degradation and moral depravity. It has been enlightening, this forced march into the world of television, in what it has revealed to me about the state of popular culture. It is no wonder that our children - too many of them - are out of control, and that our society drifts toward bankruptcy, of the purse and the spirit.

Television is leading the way to the demise of our culture, and big corporations, in pursuit of the commerce of mind-numbed and morally bereft consumers, are paying for the process of our spiritual suicide. Everyone involved should feel ashamed, and that they apparently do not is, in itself, a sad commentary on our times.