My first grade picture from the mid 1960s. Note the chunk I took out of my bangs trying to cut my own hair and the dorky pin, part of a collection of costume jewelry my grandmother showered on my sisters and me (pssst, I still have some of those pins). At least the dress was in my all-time favorite color – pink. Yes, I have always loved PINK… Oh, as a historical note, back then girls had to wear skirts and dresses to public school in PA.
The past few weeks of the Kavanaugh drama got me thinking a lot about my feelings about the genesis of America TV and especially TV news in my lifetime (I’ll be 58 yrs old later this month).
My mother liked to tell this story about my internal clock as a very young child. She told me that I would go outside to play, often happily swinging on our swing set. Lacking anything remotely akin to a daring spirit, I do remember swinging for hours on end as a child. Swinging made me feel free of fear, almost like I could touch the sky. My mother liked to repeat this story that before I could tell time, I would always come inside from playing exactly on time to watch the TV shows and cartoons I liked. She said I would tell her that it was time for my show to start and she never figured out how I could be right on time, because I hadn’t even learned to tell time yet. Sadly, my adult life has never been one where I am right on time, because all too often I’ve been running late, a point of frequent conflict with my husband, who always liked to be early.
In recent years, with too much else on my mind, too many other things to do and most of all a total disgust for most TV offerings, I rarely turn the TV on. With the Kavanaugh drama, I did turn on cable TV a few times and then switched to C-Span coverage of the Senate happenings, which felt like old times for me. I used to be a dedicated C-Span viewer and a dedicated History Channel viewer… back when the History Channel actually ran programming on history.
And that brings me to the point, what in the heck happened to American TV???
Growing up in the era where we had three major networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, the shows of my childhood reflected traditional American values. Who could find fault with Lassie or Bonanza? My father also had, what I think was called a UHF antenna, before cable TV, and we picked up some country music shows, the Grand Ol Opry and some cartoons.
The TV news was in small segments throughout the day, not 24/7 and yet we still felt adequately informed, because along with TV news, newspapers were still considered a prime source of news for most Americans.
In the 70s and 80s American TV completely changed. The Phil Donahue type talk shows, with guests brought on to air their most intimate secrets or sensational topics, began to replace the old entertainment-focused interview shows. Donahue’s format was hailed as breaking new ground to get Americans to talk about controversial or uncomfortable personal topics. Oprah Winfrey expanded the Donahue model of tabloid talk TV shows in the 80s.
Since the late 90s, I’ve been on a soapbox about the damage to our culture the Oprahization of America has wrought. I remember a soapbox comment I posted on the Excite message boards in ’98 on this very topic, sadly being new to the internet, I didn’t even know how to save my posts back then, but suffice it to say, my opinion on tabloid TV has not changed at all. It’s a completely destructive force to encourage people to air their most personal problems, especially family problems on national TV. The tabloid TV craze encouraged people to go on national TV and BETRAY those closest to them, discussing personal and family problems in public, thus lighting a match to any vestiges of TRUST in their relationship. It is the most corrosive form of entertainment in America. Millions of Americans bought into it, wallow in, believe in it though, so the craze continued and advanced.
Reality TV formats grew from the tabloid TV shows, further plummeting American culture into a cesspool of trash TV. There has never been anything aspirational or positive about either tabloid TV or Reality TV.
With American news reporting, I got married in 1980 and my husband and I were both serving in the Army in Germany at the time. We didn’t even own a TV set in that first apartment in Germany. I listened to music on the radio or my cassette tapes. We came back to the States in 1981 and I became a homemaker, caring for our infant daughter, living in Fayetteville, NC, where my husband, served in the 82nd Airborne Division.
Times had changed in America and we had cable TV. For an avid TV watcher like me, it was like my prayers had been answered – 24 hour TV news with CNN, HBO, plus MTV, a channel dedicated to music delivered via highly creative videos. I could not praise Ted Turner enough for his ingenuity for CNN and 24 hour news. The only downside to so much more news was when some crisis happened, I became a non-stop channel-flipper, hoping that I might find more “breaking news” somewhere.
Grenada proved the most difficult, heart-wrenching few news days when President Reagan blocked media from the invasion and my husband was deployed there. My parents were on St. Thomas at the time and my mother kept calling me with the news she was getting there. Oddly enough, the only other truly anxious news void for me happened the day the OJ verdict came in and my sister was stationed in Turkey. There had been a news report of a major earthquake in Turkey and then it was 24/7 OJ coverage. Those were some long hours until my sister called and let us know she was safe.
Where TV is at now in 2018, after such promise in the 1980s, still shocks me. Sure Hollywood still manages to churn out a few excellent TV shows here or there, but the overall quality of TV offerings has declined, as has tabloid and reality TV formats, which only coarsen and sensationalize the worst aspects of American culture.
Sadly, beyond aggressively advancing the leftist social justice agenda, American TV offers little in the way of educational or quality historical information. It offers little in the way of promoting our literary and fine arts heritage. And it glaringly fails to offer even a glimmer of aspirational or unifying patriotic messages.
In recent years, I watch less and less TV, to the point that now I rarely even turn the TV on. My husband watches FOX News in the sun room, all day long, so I see small bits here and there (mostly ones I wish I had avoided since it’s blatant Trumpathon garbage).
I’ve awakened to the reality that American media, almost exclusively, dedicatedly promotes and works to mainstream the Left’s social justice dogma and indoctrinate Americans into Leftist groupthink and use of the American Left’s newspeak lingo – SPIN messaging.
I’ve also awakened to the reality that having American cable news reporting starkly divided along partisan political lines means none of us are getting straight, unbiased news reporting anymore.
And that should alarm every American.