Everyone gets enough exercise jumping to conclusions, flying off the handle etc…
What is it about modern society that makes everyone think they have to get so upset about everything all the time? Twenty five years ago, all you got was “Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells” writing to Points of View saying “why oh why oh why” a lot, then peddling their reactionary dissatisfaction at the TV show of the hour. It was all rather gentle, and didn’t really make much of a difference to anything.
But gradually over the years, it seems that Britons as a whole have lost their stiff upper lip, have lost their resolution, their unwillingness to complain. And instead of this being a force for good, a vehicle by which everyone’s lot may be improved – as in the traditions of the best complainers, or activists as they’d be more fairly described – what we’re left with is a load of pious reactionary mithering.
It is my view that society has, in this timeframe, become a massive damper. A steamroller of an organisation steadfastly crushing individual behaviours. People as a collective seem unable to tolerate differences in opinions, which is ironic in a society so desperate to embrace diversity. Nowhere is this more apparent than the workplace, where “diversity” training is mandated on an almost annual basis, to hammer home the point that discrimination is bad. So we’re taught to respect difference, that each person’s opinion is worthy of consideration.
But on the other hand, we’re embracing a culture of taking offence. “Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells” always built his argument on a straw man. It was rational to ridicule someone complaining about a television programme because DoTW could – at no cost to himself – remove the source of his anguish.
He could simply change the channel, and “TADA!”, the cause of the outrage disappears.
That he chose not to change the channel, that he chose to continue watching, and then chose to write a letter of complaint, rendered the whole complaint fallacious. Why complain about something you’re not forced to put up with?
It has become apparent that such self-censorship has become a personal failing. A typical lunchtime conversation can run thus:
“Did you watch that appalling show on television last night?”
“OMG, it was terrible, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, I was so offended!”
Turn to one of the participants and say “Yeah, I watched the first couple of minutes, then changed the channel. I’m not going to watch that kind of thing,” and they’ll look at you like you’re some kind of alien.
“How could you exercise such restraint,” they’ll think.
Sadly, the internet facilitates the scattergunning of such conversations. Keep an eye on Twitter during some of these contentious TV shows, and marvel at the outpouring of badly thought out discriminatory bile. Often far worse than the source of the outrage in the first place. Twitter can collectively disappear up its own self-righteous backside at these times. Of course, it’s not the WHOLE of Twitter, it is – as ever – the vocal minority.
From observing behaviour on social networks, it seems that the offence-nation has taken it a step further. People seem to be actively seeking out content about which they can then become outraged. It’s not restricted to the TV or the radio. It’s not restricted to people watching the wrong shows. It’s pervasive. Newspapers such as The Daily Mail employ columnists who portray themselves as being “right on” Centrists, but who quickly reveal themselves to be narrow-minded bile-spouting bigots. People buy the paper, or visit the web sites, to read the columns to become offended. News of the latest hate column comes out, and then thousands of people go and read the column, clear in the knowledge that it’s going to offend them. Channel 4, The Morgana Show, Frankie Boyle, Andy Gray are all recent targets, but in the past The Daily Mail’s Jan Moir, and Radio 2 DJs Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross have all been tarred with the same brush.
It seems pretty simple in theory, but it must not be in practice. If you thought Frankie Boyle was a bit offensive on Mock the Week, why would you watch a show at 10pm on Channel 4 which has repeated content warnings by the continuity announcer before starting? Since everyone knows that Jan Moir writes ill-considered opinion pieces out of step with modern society, why read her column? And why watch a car show if you think all cars are evil and that men who like cars are essentially children?
You can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time.
The trouble with all this outrage is that people putting themselves in the firing line, deliberately exposing themselves to material they will find offensive, is being treated too seriously by the content providers. If I complained to the editor of the Daily Mail about Jan Moir, I would rightly expect to be reminded that I do not have to read the paper. Or even that page within the paper. (For the avoidance of doubt, I will never read the Daily Mail ever again, not even if it was the last paper on Earth)
I don’t like the TV serial drama Eastenders. But many people do, and I’ll defend the BBC’s right to make it, just so long as I’m not forced to watch it. It doesn’t offend me, because I’m smart enough to be able to remove myself from a room that has a TV showing it. It’s clear to me that I am not meant to watch Eastenders. It’s not for me. And the BBC is not representing my interests in making it. However, it regularly attracts audiences of numbering eight figures, so the BBC is clearly representing them. Similarly with shows I do like. I happen to enjoy watching Top Gear. You may not. You may think that the show is a waste of the licence fee. Again, the seven/eight figure audiences would demonstrate the value. It doesn’t matter if there’s one person offended by a show, because there will always be a rank of people who thought it was the funniest thing they’ve ever seen.
It creates lumps in the audiences. You may not like my favourite lump, but why should your complaint about the lump cause it to be removed? And what will you think when I complain about your favourite lump? Lesioning creativity in this way will lead irrevocably to lifeless content that pleases as few people as it offends.
In essence, complaints are dissociating the consumer from responsibility for choosing their entertainment. Such complaints put the onus on content providers to govern what is and is not acceptable. Incessantly listening to the complainers will lead to all shows, columns, articles, or books that have any individuality being emasculated, deleted or cancelled.
And since the very thing that may please you may be the thing that offended me, it will lead to a stagnation of creativity and a future of audio visual gruel. All that’s been deemed good enough for everyone on all the time.
Is that what you want?