Mass media was not always about giving the megaphone to the stupid and crazy. In the early days of newspapers and almanacs, the producers were trying to transmit news and, often, high culture to the masses. The people producing the first mass production printed material were making a living, but they also were improving the lot of their fellow citizens. Ben Franklin is the best example of someone doing good, while making money, literally and figuratively.
Closer to our current age, movies and cartoons borrowed heavily from high culture. If you watch old Bugs Bunny cartoons, you’ll note a great deal of sophistication, like references to literature and classical music. The default assumption in western societies has always been that everyone looks up for inspiration. That’s no longer true. Now it is assumed that everyone looks down, trying to emulate the dysfunctional and deranged.
The question is whether the culture has changed media or that mass media has changed the culture. Maybe it is both. A good example is this story from the Telegraph about an old guy getting savaged for trying to be funny.
The BBC have issued an apology after veteran golf commentator Peter Alliss provoked another sexism storm with his second on-air gaffe within 24 hours at the Open at St Andrews.
Alliss, 84, had already sent social media alight on Sunday night with his comment about young Irish amateur Paul Dunne being hugged by his mother as he came off the course with a share of the third-round lead.
“Ah, that must be mum,” said Alliss. “Perhaps he likes older women. I don’t know but I hope I got the right one.”But the storm he had provoked had hardly had time to die down when he was at it again on Monday evening. This time his remarks were directed towards Kim Barclay, the wife of Zach Johnson, moments before the American sized up a putt to win a three-way play-off to land the Open title.
As the camera focused on her, Alliss mused about how the couple would spend the prize money: “She is probably thinking – ‘if this goes in I get a new kitchen’,” commented Alliss.
Lesley-Ann Wade, the manager of British golfer-turned-commentator Nick Faldo, said on Twitter:
— LeslieAnne Wade (@LeslieAnneWade) July 20, 2015
Her views were echoed by other users of the social media site
Now, most of the people on social media are loons. Everyone knows that, especially the people running things like the BBC. They get plenty of nonsense from crackpots and nutters on Twitter and Facebook. The right way to handle it is to tell them to screw and go about your business. In this case, the BBC should simply tell Lesli Ann Wade to grow up and stop carrying on like a teenage girl.
This never happens. Instead, adults in positions of responsibility grovel to these crazies, which only encourages more of it. Is this the fault of social media? Is it the fault of the culture tzars failing to draw a line and instead indulging these people? Maybe untethering the culture from 1500 years of history leaves the ruling class unable to find their footing, giving the nuts the upper hand.
I don’t know the answer. Something has gone terribly wrong when normal banter between adults is suddenly taboo. When noticing reality can get you fired, we’ve tipped into a dangerous place. The other day, David Frum got the treatment for noticing that Serena Williams looks like a steel worker in a tutu and wondering if she is not getting chemical aid.
This is no way to run civilization.