Television and the Ugly American

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American television has a lot to answer for. Being so close to the US border, we get a clear reception of the northwestern New York state TV signals as they drift across lake Ontario.

So here's the disconnect... While we were travelling through the United States, we met a bunch of wonderful, friendly, helpful people. Even in New York City, supposedly reknown for being full of folk who only look out for themselves, I have to say that it was not our experience at all. I'm sure there are plenty of good and bad people in the world, but I was impressed with just how friendly, helpful and cheerful the people we met during our travels were. Even standing in the NYC subway, trying to make sense of a map, we had complete strangers come up and say "Are you ok, can I help you?". And things like that happened on more than one occasion. Despite the stories one reads about how uncaring and impersonal and rude and ignorant "people" are, the world really is full of nice folks.

So where does the bad rap come from? Why is there such a perception out there that there are so many people - especially, I hate to say it, American people - who only care about themselves, are ignorant of what goes on in the rest of the world, and generally act like redneck hillbillies? I'm sure the answer, at least partly, is television.

As I write this, I have the TV on. For the last couple of hours I've been seeing the worst of humanity parading across the screen on Jerry Springer, Judge Joe Brown, Judge Mathis, Judge Judy, Divorce Court, (hmm, seeing a pattern here?) and several others, all of which feature incredibly stupid, ignorant, pathetic people who are totally out of touch with the real world. Punctuating these low points of human achievement are a steady stream of advertisements that really drag the bottom of the barrel of humanity... legal firms encouraging you to sue your doctor, firms that will help you sue anyone who you feel has wronged you, firms who will help you screw your ex-husband for everything you can get, companies that help people "looking for more" to arrange extramarital affairs, and so on... it's pathetic.

If you believed that people really were the way they appeared on TV, you'd just pull the plug on humanity right now. If that's a real indication of what people are like, then the human race has no future. Just give up right now. Trouble is, for so many people what they see on TV is reality. The people they see on TV are a true representation of who they think the world is filled with.

Television, you have a lot to answer for.

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