A week or so ago the ABC screened a Sunday night program about the morals campaigner Mary Whitehouse. There were wonderful images of Mary sitting in a darkened room in front of her television with a notebook, making extensive lists of everything she considered to be offensive so that she could write to the BBC to complain in detail.
How far we have come! Thanks to the web, you don't even need to watch a program to be offended by it. Think of how much Mary would have gained from having access to Youtube,or, in the last week or so, the website of any news service in Australia. A program you've chosen never to watch, that you are not slightly interested in, perhaps even on a channel that you never turn to can be helpfully distilled into a single 3 minute segment and then broadcast at you from every media source( including talkback radio) over and over again all day, for a week ! Thanks to the web, more people can now be offended by a program than have ever actually viewed it.
Perhaps Mary was a little like a reality TV star in her day, famous in her attempts to control the media, but to her credit she stood behind every word she said, and she wrote a letter and went to the expense of a stamp. It's likely she even rode her bicycle to the letterbox and sent it. Now disgust is immediate, unfiltered, barely even moderated in some cases, and crucially, anonymous. And then it gets really weird- anonymous people whose circumstances are unverified are then quoted by journalists as examples of what people are saying and what circumstances they are in, and at the end of these articles are requests for comments, and hundreds and hundreds more anonymous comments referring either to the program they didn't watch or the unverified comments of other anonymous posters are added to the original article. The media consumes itself and although this is nothing new, the RATE at which it consumes itself and the ferocity with which it talks about itself is certainly unmatched.
All the things I know about Susan Boyle and I don't think the program she was in was even televised here ! I've never watched a show with Gordon Ramsay in it and yet I woke up this morning hating him. I can't wait until the week after next when we've all forgotten about the Chk Chk Boom Girl, who also gave an unverified account of something that she hadn't witnessed which I didn't know had happened until I found a message board discussing whether or not she was a racist, linked to an article in an online paper which in turn offered a link to footage of the interveiw. There are over 500 comments on the Chaser debacle on the ABC message boards and more than one person has written (anonymously) "I never watch the ABC and this is why". Is the organisation responsible to people who have no interest whatsoever in it? Is it actually a win for the ABC, who prides itself as a multiplatform content provider, that people never who turn on ABC television or radio are at least engaging with its online presence and making comments, albeit about something they saw editorialised on a commercial network that was reproducing ABC content, presumably using the fair dealing exceptions from the copyright act to transmit copyright material without permission ? In fact, it was probably used under "reporting of news". And how is a comedy show 'news', anyway ? When a segment of it is widely reproduced by the news media, and round we go again.
I always knew Mary Whitehouse was bad news, the two Ronnies and the Goodies told me. But at least she watched the programs she wanted taken off the air. At least she was what she said she was. She wasn’t phoning in anonymous death threats to television comedians and she wasn’t arguing about standards and decency in the most violent and obscene terms she could think of. That would be hypocritical, and cowardly. And that really would be disgusting.
6 years ago