Philosophy Lectures and Bud-Lite Commercials
Cliff cites a news article in which a couple of boys made use of some grisly knowledge obtained from a television program in order to try and hide the fact that they had murdered their mother. Being the Philosophy grad student that he is, Cliff also cites Plato who reminds us that while educating our society we ought to refrain from using sources that “provide a means for the imitation of vice.” What ensued was a discussion on whether there can be made a distinction between popular culture and education – was their such in Plato’s time (and if so to what extent did he have that in mind in his writing on this topic) and is there a distinction made in our time?
About once a week it seems we hear the sorry tale of some kid getting maimed or killed while trying to duplicate a stunt seen on television (typically fingered for blame is a program named after a donkey on my very favorite “music” network – please note sarcasm). We are amazed when family members of the failed stuntmen then sue the network which throws up its hands and says: “Hey we warned you not try it at home!!!” And then we further ask in amazement: “How stupid do you have to be to try such a reckless stunt?” Now I agree, you’d have to be a pretty dumb “jackass” to try such stunts, but lets face it, there are a lot of dumb people in the world. Just look at history and see how people have time and time again been duped into doing some incredibly stupid and often downright evil things. If someone would like examples feel free to email me...I'm sure I can provide some very personal ones.
Can we hold a network responsible for the deaths of stupid kids? Probably not legally, but I would argue until I am red in the face that they bear some moral responsibility. I have often heard it said that it is up to parents to police their children and NOT society, but I can only agree with the first half of that sentence: of course parents should police their children…but alas, not all parents do. My kids will have to grown up and live in a world full of such kids who have had no significant parental supervision. At some point and time we, as a society, will have to bear the burden of such people.
The fact of the matter is, most people (perhaps ALL people) will spend more time watching television than they ever will inside a classroom. I cannot address the issue as to whether or not Plato might have intended to expand his counsel on the subject at hand to the realm of popular culture, but I don’t think we can escape the fact that American television programs and commercials do in fact educate the masses – and furthermore would have thoroughly humbled the propaganda machine of the Third Reich.
What are they propagating? Hedonism…plain and simple hedonism. And it seems to me that as people (not just kids) are watching and listening - they are learning. As I mentioned on Cliff's blog, I am beginning to doubt whether the average person can discern a difference between a philosophy lecture and a Bud-Lite commercial.
...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 5:54 PM [+]