Big Brother - Emil Salman 0 June 29 2011
A scene from Big Brother. Photo by Emil Salman
Text size

 

The boycott declared against cottage cheese is important. The apathetic Israeli has finally woken up and is willing to fight for his basic needs. But at the same time there's something very disturbing about this campaign. The fact that the Israeli awakens from his apathy only when his pocket is affected seems only to confirm the assumption of the barons who control our lives (the barons of the economy, the media and politics ), that only money interests us. The rare resource called a "consumer boycott" should also be used for more important issues than the price of cottage cheese. There is a product that must be boycotted not for economic reasons, but for very important cultural and social reasons. I am referring to reality shows.

Prof. Gabi Weimann was correct when, in the Hebrew edition of this newspaper ("On the slippery slope of reality," June 17 ), he discussed the built-in process of deterioration of these programs, which each time have to excite the audience with a more potent dosage, and of course with greater insults and a higher level of voyeurism. But it is also important to discuss what Weimann only implied: the serious socio-cultural damage these programs cause.

The combination of the frequency of the programs, the centrality of the TV channels and the hours when they are broadcast, the endless discussions about them in the other media are all leading to a situation where not only are insults and voyeurism no longer considered offensive traits, they are "the name of the game" in the new Israeli society. And most important, they are at the top of the food chain that ends with too many young Israelis declaring that their mission in life is "to make money and become famous."

There are of course many factors responsible for that, but the reality shows are the most blatant symbol of this philosophy. Because what causes ordinary people to agree to the endless humiliations they endure on the reality shows (exposing their obesity, their foolishness, their inarticulateness etc. ), or the blatant invasion of their privacy by the television camera (from their bank account to their family relationships and up to their bedrooms ), if not the opportunity "to become famous" and perhaps even to "make it big" and to win the big prize?

It's not a good idea to treat these programs as merely a pleasant evening entertainment when everyone is tired. Every Jewish mother should be aware that when her child is humiliated in school, it happens because of the reality show that she watched the previous evening. Every Jewish father should be aware that he has no chance of educating his children to something more exalted than money and fame, if every evening they watch a reality show in his home.

Weimann passed the ball to the regulators and demanded that they rein in the broadcasts. That is certainly a legitimate demand, but before they start to implement it we, the potential consumers, have to take steps that will encourage the regulator to act and perhaps will even make his intervention unnecessary.

First and foremost, a boycott. Not a single one of those shows should be watched. They should not be turned into a subject of discussion in the other media. The people who behind them - the channel directors, the producers, editors and presenters - should not be treated as "cultural heroes" and "success stories," but with the disgust deserved by people who drug the public and whose powerful influence makes them dangerous. Like Cato the Elder in Rome, every MK and public figure should end his speeches and his appearances with the words: "And aside from that, the reality shows must be boycotted." Maybe they should even be dubbed "the polluted shows."