From the Dáil debate on Family Planning (Amendment) Bill, 1985, and worth reading in full… but here’s an excerpt:
“Republican” is perhaps the most abused word in Ireland today. In practice what does it mean? The newspapers do not have to explain it because there is an immediate preconceived notion of what it is. It consists principally of anglophobia. Mentally, at least, it is an aggressive attitude towards those who do not agree with our views on what the future of this island should be. It consists of turning a blind eye to violence, seeing no immorality, often, in the most awful violence, seeing immorality only in one area, the area with which this Bill deals. Often it is displayed by letting off steam in the 15 minutes before closing time with some rousing ballad that makes one vaguely feel good and gets one clapped on the back by people who are stupid enough to think that sort of flag waving is the way to make progress in this island — to go back into your own trenches rather than try to reach out to people whom we need to reach. Continue reading
The complement to a culture of celebrity has become therefore the unabashed theater of cruelty, the public spaces where we gaze upon the half-speed car wrecks of the lives of others in the throes of failure, Nascar for the politically challenged. In one sense the programming of everyday sadism explicitly aimed at the poor and distressed is so ubiquitous that one need hardly recite the titles: The Jerry Springer Show, Dr. Phil, The Apprentice, Shattered, Unbreakable, Big Brother, Hell’s Kitchen, Survivor, American Idol – it is hardly worth the minor effort that it takes to disparage it. A moment’s reflection reveals it is pervasive in American culture. Unremarkable people, desperate for some sort of acknowledgement and validation, yearning for some promise of escape from the stale and commonplace, offer themselves up on the altar of abject humiliation to an audience of millions; smarmy celebrities berate them to their face; and the spectacles proliferate because they are cheaper for the networks to program than either scripted fiction or news. In many instances, the audience is even encouraged to pay to “vote” for those to ostracize and banish – a clear simulacrum of the neoliberal marketplace.
Philip Mirowski, Never Let a Serious Crisis Go To Waste, p. 133.
This sums up, in a few sentences, what has sat unparsed in my mind for the better part of a decade. I recall once in conversation using the title “America’s Got Schadenfreude” as simultaneous shorthand for and dismissal of these types of shows. It saved discussion. The characterisation so satisfied me that I had left things at that, and moved on to other things. I don’t own a television and I don’t watch television on my laptop. These shows are of no relevance to me. Yet what Mirowski writes here is important because it explains why not caring about (or indeed carrying around a psychologically analogical underground coal-seam fire of hatred for) these shows isn’t simply snobbery. That is the usual assumption when the subject comes up. “I don’t watch television” is a sentence that is becoming increasingly difficult for people to interpret in any other way than “I think I am superior to you”. The truth is closer to the polar opposite in that I think we are, all of us, so much better than what is put up on our televisions. Perhaps the part of my brain dedicated to a love of documentaries, PBS, and the (old) BBC is hyperdeveloped, and pressing on that part of the brain concerned with ‘just enjoying’ myself. So be it.