“Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours…. When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.”—Professor Neil Postman
Once again, the programming has changed.
Like clockwork, the wall-to-wall news coverage of the latest crisis has shifted gears.
We have gone from COVID-19 lockdowns to Trump-Biden election drama to the Russia-Ukraine crisis to the Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmation hearings to Will Smith’s on-camera assault of comedian Chris Rock at the Academy Awards Ceremony.
The distractions, distortions, and political theater just keep coming.
The ongoing reality show that is life in the American police state feeds the citizenry’s voracious appetite for titillating, soap opera drama.
Much like the fabricated universe in Peter Weir’s 1998 film The Truman Show, in which a man’s life is the basis for an elaborately staged television show aimed at selling products and procuring ratings, the political scene in the United States has devolved over the years into a carefully calibrated exercise in how to manipulate, polarize, propagandize and control a population.
This is the magic of the reality TV programming that passes for politics today: as long as we are distracted, entertained, occasionally outraged, always polarized but largely uninvolved and content to remain in the viewer’s seat, we’ll never manage to present a unified front against tyranny (or government corruption and ineptitude) in any form.
The more that is beamed at us, the more inclined we are to settle back in our comfy recliners and become passive viewers rather than active participants as unsettling, frightening events unfold.
We don’t even have to change the channel when the subject matter becomes too monotonous. That’s taken care of for us by the programmers (the corporate media).
“Living is easy with eyes closed,” observed John Lennon, and that’s exactly what reality TV that masquerades as American politics programs the citizenry to do: navigate the world with their eyes shut.
As long as we’re viewers, we’ll never be doers.
As doctors and health professionals race against Covid-19 vaccination skepticism, some Hollywood producers, writers and showrunners are betting that inputting vaccines into television storylines can help curb widespread misinformation.
Shows across TV networks began integrating Covid-19 into scripts, including questions about social distancing and masking, as the pandemic spread across the U.S. last March. Now, as vaccination efforts ramp up nationwide, shows like “This Is Us” — which featured a recurring character receive two doses of a vaccine in an episode last month — are integrating vaccines into episodes and audiences can expect to see more vaccination plot points, says Kate Folb, director of the Hollywood, Health and Society program at the University of Southern California.
Folb is a member of a growing network of entertainment industry experts working closely with writers and showrunners to accurately depict health and medical information, and use entertainment to fight the misinformation campaigns and nationwide skepticism fueled by social media.