Clowning Around: A Column on the Television Media

Author: Elle Dietz

Clowning Around: A Column on the Television Media

Snoop Dogg recently made news and provoked controversy with the release of his music video, "Lavender," which — in the course of criticizing President Trump's administration, among other things — portrays the rapper shooting a gun at President Trump, dressed in a clown outfit. This caricature of the president in a clownsuit isn't far from what the television media covering Trump has now become.


The media has evolved into a virtual “CLOWNTOWN.” In the face of fear tactics and implicit biases, televised news has humorously downgraded. Straying far from its original purpose to keep active citizens informed, networks are now jaded by the sort of aimed attraction which caters to support agreement between anchors and viewers. Dogg is not misled in his unusual interpretation of newscasters as clowns, as he depicts in this controversial new video. Sustained by none other than a hearty bowl of "Snoop Loops" in the morning, these individuals are fueled with a unique bias that is ever-present in their broadcasts. Given the common viewer’s avoidance of dissenting channels, the great misalignment of values between similar groups of people goes unnoticed far too often. The tendency of the modern man to seek out agreeable controversy in staying up to date with the latest is undisputed.


If threatening to civilian unity, why must news sources have any set of consistent informational values for which they are known? A network’s only explicit value should be present in the more technical aspect of the business, in ethics and employment. In other words, organizations are rationally held responsible for their moral restrictions on what to televise and who to hire. Even so, employment should be unaffected by individual belief, as this should not be exemplified on screen. All too often, however, those presenting “breaking news” plant the roots of fear and hate by including circumstantial personal thought (the kind which is heavily influenced by stereotypes) and provoking equivalent opinion and its corresponding behavior in their audiences.


In light of the recent election, tensions have soared high among the politically opinionated. Rather than unite under a seemingly mutual concern for our nation’s immediate future, divisions in the party system have broadened in the development of what seems to be reciprocated misunderstanding. An example of this disparity exists in recent criticism of Democrats as evolving to be “extremists,” hoping for a return to Tea Party tactics. One article, published March 27 on the conservative blog The Resurgent, says party members are “the biggest pro-abortion extremists in the world,” followed by the further criticism: “They’re way beyond pro-choice — they’re anti-science, anti-debate, anti-life in all circumstances.” 


Not only does this claim serve as an inaccurate representation of a whole group of individuals (one of them your pro-life, Democratic journalist), but instills in its audience a false sense of fear for their partisan counterparts. The word "extremist" inspires a link to the concept of fundamentalism, which is understandably looked down upon in today’s society after being determined to be the motivation behind multiple bouts of terrorism in the United States and abroad. It is unreasonable, however, to say the Democratic Party is led by these same ideals. Rather than blindly state assumptions based on what little knowledge can be gained in the absence of intellectual communication between those who disagree, news sources should be responsible for setting a positive example by encouraging viewers to arrive at feasible conclusions only after learning of and understanding all sides of a given issue.


A secondary problem in the media is its seeking out of predicated, or aimed, attraction. In other words, news outlets often fall prey to the practice of drawing in only those who are likely to support that which is found in an article, video or advertisement. Throughout his recent election and even now, President Trump has been accused of this in the way he addresses his fan base on Twitter. Aware that he is likely to, at some level, be chastised for virtually every statement, our supreme leader tunes out criticism and responds just to praise. (This is a dangerous habit which is almost entirely supported by social media companies nowadays — for who wants to focus on the negatives, anyway?) This is supported in reporter and former attorney Dean Obeidallah’s statement: “As things stand, Trump tweets and the media chases.”  Trump rarely reacts constructively to judgment by the media; on the contrary, he chooses to exclusively endorse those entities that support his noble attempt to “Make America Great Again.” Though silence in the face of reproach is understandable as an anthropological flight reaction, it affects followers by creating a false sense of national consensus. The same is experienced by the limited exposure of the common citizen to those sources with whose bias he is expected to support.


An objection to the argument against specified attraction which relates to Dogg’s music video is that it goes both ways: in expressing the incompetence, immaturity and incapability of the “man” large and in charge (Trump), the musician is equally as guilty of spreading hateful opinion as are the conservatives who run Fox News. It is not necessarily wrong, however, to call to widespread attention a relevant issue, so long as it is done creatively and with some degree of respect. Though the upkeep of this respect is at the very least questionable in one specific scene of the analyzed work, its overall effectiveness is clear; and, those parts which were deemed morally repugnant by opponents proved essential in the piece’s status as a viral sensation. The debate on the use of fame to promote good works is also related: Is it morally permissible that one may be more successful spreading participation in charitable works simply because he is well known for some other talent? The obvious answer is yes; it is not wrong for one to take advantage of his earned social standing for the benefit of others. Accordingly, it is acceptable (and even good) to create and share provocative works of art.


Returning to the previous idea of ignorance to bias, it is noteworthy to mention that even those who watch the news can be terribly misled unless they habitually subscribe to a plethora of outlets, just as newscasters are uninformed if hired on the basis of personal belief. The typical solution suggested to aid the problem of selective exposure in the media is mere advice: One should seek out a multitude of viewpoints on all breaking news and delineate from there what is the truth and what is proper adoptable opinion. Citing the words of Princeton University’s Harry Frankfurt in his essay, "On Bulls--t,"  this is "Greater [an] enemy of the truth than lies are,” perpetuating the concept that those on the receiving end of the news spectrum are held to a higher standard of determining what is true and right in the world than those who are presenting it. We, as a society, need a solution other than “do it yourself,” as the average human person does not have the time nor resources to perform extensive research on a wide variety of current events. If a story does not exist to a certain level of accuracy, it should be eliminated from that any given day’s set of broadcasts.


Imagine a world in which biases were eliminated, or even just minimized. Such did exist at one point in history, at the dawn of television itself, and is therefore knowingly attainable. Should a third-party screening be adopted to ensure the validity of information before it is publicized, the American public would be at a great advantage in the absorption of true news. Here, fear tactics could be used for the good of the people, to keep the big businesses that are news sources in check. Out of fear for shutdown by the local or federal government, companies and organizations would adhere to strict standards for bias and the broadcasting of superfluous opinion. Such would prove to spark the much-needed transition from clown to honest newscaster, from CLOWNTOWN to educated town, city, country and world.