life in a media circus

I've been traveling lately, and in various hotels and friends guest rooms, have seen more TV than usual. This sojourn away from my usual ignorance of broadcast television has provided the following dubious delights:

• Fox's "Moment of Truth" game show, which really does turn real life into a game, and has apparently bribed at least one marriage into oblivion through paying for public confessions of adultery. (I expect the show's producers might try to tell us that the show teaches something else about personal responsibility, or that's all in good fun, or that the contestants are there by their own informed volition; or we may even discover that the show has been lying to us and faking it. But here's the real moment of truth: when the host says, "some of these questions are way over my line," and yet still asks them, has he himself not become the definition of insanity?)

• CNN rampantly advertising Larry King's exclusive interview with Jesse Ventura as if his non-campaign for the presidency was almost as important as Jessica Simpson's non-engagement and non-pregnancy.

• Various entertainment clip shows dedicated to matters such as Robin Williams' divorce, and the Tom Cruise birthday party video.

• And in the past week, major news networks hysterically talking as if the sad events surrounding a Texas polygamous sect are just waiting to happen to your children; and the ridiculous and over-the-top response to Senator Obama's attempt at explaining an utterly uncontroversial reality: that being economically disenfranchised can make you feel entrenched. This is amusingly accompanied by the absurd suggestion that there has ever been a U.S. President who did not somehow arrive in the White House linked to the economic 'elite'.

Most of us would like to believe that we have come a long way since the Roman circus – where human beings killed people for our entertainment - or even the Victorian circus - where we only abused the disabled and disadvantaged. Today's circus may look like it only mocks the powerful – with the fabulously wealthy being humiliated as they emerge drunk and bloodied from a nightclub, or photographed while getting an embarrassing haircut. But I think we're kidding ourselves if we think people are not harmed by the pornography of social humiliation offered up 24/7. Amy Winehouse's visible bruises and alleged substance abuse problem, and Britney Spears' obvious mental illness are not legitimate fodder for our entertainment, no matter how economically powerful these two women may be.

To read the rest of this post on the God's Politics blog, click here.