Musings on Media: TMZ is evil.

So for the first time in a very long time, I watched some TMZ. I make a conscious effort to stay away from shows like TMZ, and stay away from magazines like Star and whatever other ones exist. I make the point to disengage that representation of culture, in an effort to prevent it from rubbing of on how I carry myself. But tonight I was on YouTube and as anyone who has ever been on YouTube knows, it’s very easy to get caught up in a YouTube tornado. I ended up watching some James Franco videos, and then some more videos, and then some articles. Eventually I ended up on TMZ watching a video of an ex-NYU professor who was ‘fired for giving James Franco a D’.

I just thought, man, no wonder there is this general feeling that the west sucks (specifically the states). Now, I don’t want to tread into unfamiliar ‘black and white’ territory, but I think I can say with a little confidence and a little more ease, that the states has a shitty international reputation. And I think that reputation, or image, is bolstered by anyone who watches American television, or picks up a newspaper or magazine. I’m so flustered right now I can barely string together what I want to say.

America is a waste, and their media is like a cancer. Again, I’m being careful not to sound like I’m taking things in black and white terms; I’m painting with broad strokes and using some metaphoric imagery.

TMZ earns revenue by slandering and defaming people. By creating this new culture that has spread so far and so fast that the rest of us live on the fringe. And watching TMZ or reading Star isn’t a benign action. That stuff infects you; it desensitizes you. Eventually you’ll see it and say ‘oh, that’s not soo bad’. You forget how horrible it is, until one day, without even knowing it, you’ve become the very thing you once hated. When I was growing up shows like Mean Girls created this fiction where the ‘gossipy, popular girls’ were ‘bad’ and the ‘nerdy, honest girls’ were ‘good’. And good triumphed over evil. Now, not only does good not triumph over evil, but we don’t even know what is good and what is bad. Now girls try to align themselves with the behavior the movie tried to explain was not endearing. And its just going to get worse. And I think the insidious nature of TMZ plays a massive role; maybe more metaphorically than literally.

The other big name in shitty American media is Bill O’Riely, and thanks to the internet, he has gained critical fame for being a horrible example of a human being. But even then, it is still unclear to me whether he knows what he’s doing, or whether he doesn’t. On the one hand I think maybe he’s being an asshole because he knows its great television and he has no moral fiber, but then I think of all the people in my own life that I know of who are almost exactly like him, and I think maybe that’s who he really is. Aside from the intention, the consequence is the same: we are feeding our children this standard of behavior where its okay to say whatever about anyone, its okay to get drunk and its cool to party and not care about anything; we are confusing them, but still sending them this message that ‘even though you don’t really understand whats going on, if you behave like this, everyone will think you’re cool’.

These channels and programs pander to my demographic, and most of my friends and the people I grew up with, watch them… and it sickens me. I can’t get through one episode without wanting to throw my T.V. out the window. And I’m not just saying that to oppose myself to a standard of people, or to be a hipster or to be different. I genuinely hate it. Like I’ve said before, I don’t know how much time I have left on this earth. That fact has awarded me the greatest gift ever: honest perspective. I know what I need to do, and that’s what I should have always done: work with the seemingly limitless bank of collective knowledge to become the absolute best person I can be. For me, the best I can be has to be restricted to my mind; I cannot do anything physical, or with my appearance. I have to work with my mind; who I am as a person.

Why did we stop giving our children and our teens moral lessons? Why doesn’t our media try and use its powers of coercion to popularize fairness and equality, or make ‘being nerdy and studying’ seem cool. These shows give us the flu and then serve up a flu shot. They feed us a standard that only leads to more suffering, and then is there for us as a way to escape; where better to escape to then TMZ? Gossip has always had this almost high like feel to it; it’s very addictive. Celebrity gossip even more-so. It’s a viscous cycle and the men and women who work at TMZ or other such organizations are some of the most depraved people; and I genuinely feel sorry for them. T

Think of all the good we could do? Think of all of the resources that go into making these newspapers, magazines, websites and T.V. shows. Think of all the money? Again, obviously its complex, but you get my point. And if not, think of living in a third world country on less than a dollar a day. You can barely afford food and for some reason you walk by a shop playing TMZ on T.V. What would you think? That’s the image that often pops up into my head when I find myself watching TMZ or reading Star or whatever. And I’m glad for it. (Again, even that ‘poor child walking by a store playing western T.V.’ example could come back and bite me in the ass. If there’s one thing I want to express with this post, its my frustration towards people who don’t think things through; who take things at face value. Who commit the fundamental attributional error and don’t even know what it is. Who think in black and white terms but then get mad at other people for thinking in black and white terms. The point is that thinking otherwise takes effort, and with a little effort I’m quite confident most people wouldn’t post the things they do, or say the things they do. And that’s why it’s so frustrating.No one is perfect, and so its impossible for anyone to demand perfection. But if we just thought things through for a little longer we could avoid stepping on so many damn feet.)

You probably decided to read this post because the title; ‘TMZ is evil’ is grabbing… and very ironic given the content of this post. I would define evil not as some abstract force, but as a conscious decision, a choice, to do ‘wrong’. And, to be quick and very basic, I would define ‘wrong’ as anything that harms another’s well-being. TMZ makes the conscious choice to harm other’s well being. I don’t think it’s an intention, but it is a consequence. I have written more about this topic here.

We can’t define, in a particular situation, what is right or wrong based solely upon how we feel about it; which I think is what happens far too often; we feel comfortable saying a certain thing, or doing a certain thing and define that as okay. And since we are force-fed desensitizing media, that’s good advice. We have to be more smart, more empathetic and harder working about it! Right and wrong, well-being and dysfunction are hot handed things that should be revered with sincerity and honesty of character. Not shouldered away from because ‘thinking is too hard’.

So, my advice wouldn’t be to never watch TMZ or ever read any celebrity gossip, or ever gossip ever again; I like to credit myself with a tad more wisdom than that. My advice is to constantly engage in honest, frank discussion with yourself. Read and watch more good than bad. Find a code of ethics that works equally well for you as it does for others, and try and live by it. Read into what is written; don’t take things at face value. At the very least live by the golden rule. I don’t know, I feel like I can’t rant about formless, evil ranting without adding a touch of what I expect my media to provide for me.

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