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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Columns

Reality TV just as sad as cable news


On Sept. 8, Jersey Shore’s Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi found herself in a New Jersey courtroom on charges of disturbing other beachgoers during a drunken bicycle-riding escapade. Snooki pouted in court, playing with her hair extensions and fluttering her fake lashes in a desperate attempt to channel Lindsay Lohan.

Judge Damian Murray saw through her charade and ordered the pouf-sporting trollop to perform two days of community service in addition to paying a $500 fine. He then proceeded to give her a much-needed lecture on the impropriety of her actions, concluding his judgement by making the following statement:

“Only you can determine if it was worth trading your dignity for a paycheck,” Murray said.

He could have also directed his admonishment at some other notable reality TV characters: cable news pundits and their guests.

If you were to follow an episode of “Jersey Shore” with a cable news show, you would find several similarities. You would first notice a love of artificial tanning (Who is more tan, John Boehner or Snooki?) You would then discover that they both tend to contain a lot of yelling. You would find that people on both programs enjoy hurling things at each other, with the pundits, for now, preferring rhetorical Molotov cocktails to empty beer bottles. You would finally, and most importantly, discover that the people on both shows have a penchant for bending the truth.

But a little truth bending never hurt anyone, right? Isn’t it all just done to gain viewership? Who cares if pundits and their guests flub a little on the facts every once in a while if their dishonest tactics end up attracting the attention of a chronically disinterested populous?

While bending the truth provides questionable entertainment on Jersey Shore, it has no place in the media. In an ideal world, the media would present a truthful account of the stories being covered. In this ideal world pundits could still spin the story a little, but they would never spin it to the point of misrepresentation. It is unfortunate that in the real world misrepresentation has become the rule rather than the exception.

The media’s willful misrepresentation of facts is having a profound impact on the political and ideological climate of our nation. Recent polls reveal that 46 percent of Republicans believe that President Obama is a Muslim. Another 27 percent of Republicans believe that Obama is not a U.S. citizen. However, the ignorance is found on both sides of the aisle, with 25 percent of Democrats believing that the federal government had prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks.

It seems that the media is borrowing its modus operandi from the producers of reality television shows. It is actually quite a genius idea when you remember that the media is a business. By carefully selecting pedagogues from opposing ideological extremes to debate hot issues, they insure that there will be enough screaming to attract the attention of the reality TV junkies that we have become.

Will we soon see Ann Coulter copy Pumpkin’s tactics on “The Flavor of Love” and spit in the face of Rachel Maddow? Would it result in some bipartisan hair pulling? Will the line between reality TV and cable news continue to blur? If the media continues on its current path, we will find ourselves in some serious trouble in the near future, and by then it might be impossible to discern what is fact from what is fiction.

Daniel Renfrow is an anthropology junior and may be reached at [email protected]


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