A Letter to America:
For the first 15 years of the 21st Century, American television audiences have been vacuously captivated by “Reality TV” programs. Scratch that — the captivation is not limited to those glued to the glowing flat screen. The “stars” of these shows infiltrate all avenues of media, spreading throughout all potential revenue and exposure streams, firmly establishing themselves as part of the American vernacular. At a point in history when most Americans probably don’t even know what vernacular means.
The effect of this reality barrage on the under-educated, over-inundated masses is shamelessly and blindly derivative of Fahrenheit 451. And those who notice just shake their heads. To gain any acknowledgement at all, opponents and pundits of this status quo must serve up their criticisms under the pretext of comedy (Jon Stewart). To stand on a platform without a laugh track, audience applause or box office receipts they are destined to be regarded outliers at best (Elizabeth Warren), wingnuts at worst (Bernie Sanders).
They joke about “fact resistant humans” running their country. Bankers are bailed out while The People are left to drown. Bodies pile up under an ever-expanding police state. They obtusely relinquish the gamut of their cherished constitutional rights, provided they can hang on to the Sacrosanct Second, even if it is in their cold, dead hands. Like dogs with a chew toy. And the best they can muster, this nation that was conceived by Revolution and birthed by Civil War, is to rally behind hashtags for a month, a week, or a day. The vernacular expands to include things like “hashtag activism” and “slacktivism” and nobody bats an eyelash. #OccupyWallStreet. #BlackLivesMatter. #Ferguson. And for the moment #Charleston. Until the next one, of course. And everybody knows there will be a next one.
And while the Distraction of the Month (Rachel Dolezal) unsurprisingly gets offered her own Reality TV show, and a Reality TV billionaire boss (Donald Trump) runs for President, Americans settle into their sofas with reruns or the summer season to keep them sated until their regular programming resumes. But to the rest of the world, there are no seasons. The show continues unabated and uninterrupted. We are not watching your TV shows. We are watching you. For you are the set-up, the delivery and the punchline. And even though the joke got old long ago, we can’t stop watching. But this is not because we consider you to be “Must See TV”. We don’t like what we’re watching. We just can’t change the channel because you’re holding the remote. Get off the sofa, America. It’s time to change the channel. Or turn it off.