The Glass Teat: November 8, 1968
Oh, man, no cute & cuddly Ellison this week.
No, far from it. He takes a look at the top shows listed in Time Magazine, and, as he puts it, he sees "escapist entertainment of the most vapid sort". Light frothy sitcoms like Mayberry, R.F.D. and Gomer Pyle and Beverly Hillbillies. Inoffensive comedy. Fun, fun, fun.
I know, what's the big deal? Crappy shows, what's new? Well, there was this small issue of a highly unpopular war being fought for dubious reasons, with boys being drafted off to fight it, unrest in the streets, a generation turning its back on the staid hat-and-tie values of the Fifties and trying to find a new way to live - and, far from addressing any of these issues, the popular culture turns away in favor of a world where the biggest problem is the Boss coming over for dinner and the worst language anyone uses is "Fiddlesticks!"
But, of course, that was 1968. Fast forward a few decades - we have troops stationed overseas for a war started for dubious reasons at best, turmoil in the Middle East, a political system apparently caring more for Wall Street than Main Street, kids out protesting the aforementioned political system's bias and getting a face-full of oleoresin capsicum for their trouble, 16% of American families lack security in feeding themselves, idiots trying to get us into war with Iran using the same bullshit they foisted off on us for Iraq...
...and what were the top ten shows last week, in our more enlightened and wise age, according to the Nielsen ratings?
1. NFL: Phila. At N.Y. Giants NBC
2. NCIS CBS
3. Dancing with the Stars ABC
4. NCIS: Los Angeles CBS
5. Dancing with the Stars results ABC
* The Big Bang Theory CBS
7. Two and a Half Men CBS
8. 60 Minutes CBS
9. Modern Family ABC
10. Criminal Minds CBS
Mind you, I don't recognize most of these names; I don't watch network TV anymore (or cable TV, but that's another issue). I can't say a lot to the content of these shows.
But - prime-time professional football, three crime & terrorism shows in which agents presumably never interrogate or torture the wrong people, more sitcoms - and you're telling me "Dancing With The Stars" now has TWO shows devoted to it? Oh, fuck, I'm rolling to disbelieve.
"60 Minutes" being up there is interesting - was it the adoring portrait of Grover "Nobody Fucking Elected Me But I'm Running The GOP Regardless" Norquist, maybe? Funny how 60 Minutes has been able to do segments in the last couple months on the necessity of staying in Afghanistan, Vincent Van Gough, and the agent representing many NFL players, but couldn't motivate themselves to address Occupy Wall Street. Or maybe the story they did on the NYPD counter-terrorism force was that; christ knows unarmed protesters are being treated more like domestic terrorists than political dissidents. (Anyone remember that Ted Koppel had the Michigan Militia on Nightline for a friendly town hall meeting the week after the OKC bombing? I guess right-wing terrorists get air time to speak their piece while peaceful leftists get jack-shit.)
Doesn't look like we're doing any better now.
And, as Ellison points out, "[t]hey will applaud now that LBJ has stopped the bombing [in Vietnam], but they see no inconsistency in having beaten and arrested all the clear-sighted protesters who said it three years ago... And now that what those protesters protested for has come to pass, will they rise up and say free them, reinstate them, honor them?
We know the answer to that."
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.