Wednesday, January 10

Ghost Dance

It's the season when I eat dinner alone on a too-regular basis as the big Indiana high school arts competitions take place. My Poor Wife and her cohort will hang, tear down, and rehang three shows in the next five weeks, including the two big ones, just so they can be judged by people who, if not actually visually impaired, at the very least have proven incapable of noticing that School X's artwork seems so remarkably consistent stylistically as to appear as if finished by the same, unknown hand.

But I digress. This was how I found myself watching the NBC Nightly News last night instead of the usual 63 channel remote-controlled stroboscope show I get at that hour when my wife is home. And that's how I found out that NBC's two expert commentators on the subject of out latest product rollout in Iraq were...Kenneth Pollack and David Frum! No, really.

This followed having heard (previously, on your local news) at least three plugs, tosses, or exit lines about "Bush's New Way Forward", or whatever the re-branding exercise is being called. You'd think by this point at least one talking hairdo would have had enough of this shit and would refuse to mouth the drivel any more, but it appears not. New Way Forward! Now with Ginkgo Fucking Biloba or Something! And Stool Softeners! Three or Four Stool Softeners, At Least. Hey, that Howie Mandell Show is on later.

Bush's ad men say he wants to Bring the Public Back to the War, which is no doubt the explanation for Blowing Shit Up To No Purpose Beyond Claiming We Think We Got al-Qaeda's #2 Man Again yesterday. But even the purveyors of televised pablum don't operate that way. No one ever says, "We know you hate this show, and that everyone in the country stopped watching it two years ago, but won't you please please please just watch it for the two years left on Anne Sweeney/Les Moonves/Freddie Silverman's contract so they won't have to leave in disgrace?" They just fire 'em. For that matter, nobody brought back the World's Least Funny Canadian just so he could blow up condoms with his nose again.

When I was a student, back in a previous century, you couldn't get through a semester of any entry-level or child- psychology course innocent of the late-60s study where they had young children watch film of an adult taking a ball-peen hammer to one of those always-rocks-back-upright punching bags with the clown on the front, immediately after which they put the kid in a room, seemingly unsupervised, with a hammer and the same punching bag, and they discovered...spoiler alert...that the kid did precisely what the adult had done, thus proving that television causes violence. (If you happened to endure this bit of empiricism on the hoof at Indiana University in the mid-70s, I was the guy in the back making snorting noises throughout.)

Of course the real question there was Who's Getting Hosed? Not the kids, who got to beat a clown with a hammer, something any sensible child would do (and who, one might add, were at least old enough to tell the difference between a rubber blow-up doll and Grandma). It might have been the researchers, except I have a feeling they made out okay; I've seen that thing cited recently as proof that violent video games cause violence, so the study was remarkably upgradable for its time.

Buttressed with the evidence of the Bush years, I can now offer the theory I had only half-formed (the other half of me was asleep) in those days: that the study shows (intentionally or no) that a sizable portion of the population will believe anything so long as it can be connected to the teevee screen somehow. And that's the President's audience tonight.


punkinsmom said...

Well, that all must be true, 'cause I saw it on teevee.

Anonymous said...

No, No, No, The study had the children watch violent versus non-violent Television shows and then recorded how many times they punched the Bozo doll. The violent TV example was a 10 minute clip from The Untouchables that had something like 9 murders and 2 explosions. As a psychology graduate student at the time, I had to critique this study about 1/2 dozen times.