Curmudgeonly Thoughts

TV Woes

Amputations Are Forever

Having spent the last few days on the couch, holding on to my aching tummy, watching TV through a haze of fevered illness, I’ve come to a few conclusions.

The diamond people are evil. Having known about “Blood Diamonds” for the past few years, I find it morally irresponsible and borderline criminal for TV stations to accept advertising money from diamond companies until there is an international organization in place to ensure a diamond’s provenance. Blood, or “conflict” diamonds were declared illegal by the United Nations way back in 2000. If you go to a website sanctioned by the diamond industry (like this one), you’ll quickly learn that according to their statistics, 99.9% of the diamonds on the market are “clean.” I don’t trust this fact, simply because it comes straight from the diamond companies themselves, who stand to lose millions, if not billions of dollars. They also point out that hundreds of thousands of people in Africa are better off due to revenue from diamond sales, and that many of them now have health insurance.

If, however, you go to an independent website (like this one, or Wikipedia) you’ll learn that the diamond industry is funding several intense wars in Africa, and profits from the diamond industry may be linked to al-Queda. In 1996 Sierra Leone’s president asked people to “join hands for peace.” In response, Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front began amputating people’s hands, arms, legs, lips and ears, mutilating over 20,000 and killing over 75,000 people in the last ten years — all in an attempt to control that country’s diamond trade.

Diamonds are pretty things. But please don’t buy them with impunity – do some research to find out where the diamond came from. And don’t trust the salesman! Or the brand name! Canada has some diamond mines…

Another thing that bugs me about the whole deal is how the diamond commercials try to make men feel like they’re failures if they don’t buy their wives or girlfriends $20,000 worth of diamonds for every holiday. Personally, I think that if a woman demands a man to buy her trinkets to prove himself, she has issues. I’ve bought Dagmar a fair share of jewelry, flowers and greeting cards over the years, but never because she expected me to, nor because I felt obligated to do so, and almost never on a holiday. “Every kiss begins with Kay” implies that if I don’t buy my wife a diamond from Kay Jewelers I’ll never have sex again. I resent any company assuming that my wife is that shallow.


My esteemed blog colleague Steakbellie pointed out a while ago in this rather salty post that prescription drug commercials are flooding the airwaves. I don’t blame him for using strong language – I often holler language like that at the TV myself when I see dangerous commercials.

The danger of pharmaceutical commercials is that when people see an ad saying “do you have trouble sleeping?” all of a sudden they think they have a medical problem that causes them insomnia, and all they need to be happy is that particular medicine. “Are the toenails on your left foot sore from two to four on Tuesday afternoons?” Well, now that you mention it…

The problem is that we, as a society, are now telling our doctors what medicine we need rather than letting our doctors diagnose us properly, and that’s dangerous.

No one wants to have heartburn any more. It’s more dramatic and romantic to have an exotic problem like acid reflux disease… So we’re pushing our doctors to give us medication we don’t need — a shot of Pepto-Bismol would probably cure the problem, but we’re happier if we have a $75 bottle of pills that need to be refilled every month. (I’m not trying to downplay acid reflux disease, either. I’m just saying that there seem to be lots of people out there who claim to have the problem when their problem really is the pizza they eat.)

I feel this is a dangerous thing.

As Steakbellie pointed out, this trend is not likely to disappear soon. There’s simply too much money involved. The pharmaceutical companies are making a ton of money selling us drugs we don’t need (notice you never see commercials for generic or low-cost drugs), the advertising executives are living well, and the TV industry is making a ton of money selling ad space to drug companies. Think how much cheaper drugs would be if they weren’t buying half the advertising space available on the airwaves…

Looking At Yourself

Since when is a television show news? When did this start? I think the trend’s been around for a while, but it just now got past the threshold where I now notice it… I was watching a morning news show — the one with the jovial weatherman, one white woman, one minority woman, and one father figure, I’m sure you know which one that is (oh, wait, that does kinda describe all of ’em) — and was surprised at how much time in their “news” show they devoted to other programs on that particular network, treating the TV shows as if they were legitimate news!

I have a hard time picturing Walter Cronkite spending 15 minutes of his half-hour broadcast talking about the Beaver’s wacky antics.

The problem is insidious. There’s nothing technically wrong with any particular show choosing what they consider to be news and putting that up for our consumption, but it sure seems sneaky when they start to disguise propaganda as news. I’ve always wondered how much control corporations have over our news, now I worry even more. (Freedom of the press only applies if you actually own the press. Newspapers and television have to cater not only to their parent corporations, but to their advertisers. If “Ralph’s Cardboard Company” buys half the advertising space in the local newspaper, the likelihood that you’ll hear in that newspaper that Ralph’s Cardboard is carcinogenic is pretty small. This is a bit scary. Think of pharmaceutical companies buying television stations… Would we ever hear of alternative drugs or cheaper medications? Probably not…)

The only good thing about the situation is that it’s easy to avoid. There are so many media outlets these days it’s hard for anyone to corner the news market. If I hear something questionable on the news, I often check BBC to see if and how it’s reported there. (Not that they’re perfect or impartial, but they’re not subject to the same political pressures our news outlets face here in America.) More and more often I’m finding myself searching blogs to check on a news story as well. The point being, don’t believe everything you see. Check things out. Be critical. Take my word for it, you’ll be happier that way.

Those Annoying Little Graphics

Having spent two illish days on the couch staring vacantly at the tube, I’ve also learned that I really, really don’t like those little graphics that every station now has at the bottom of the screen. Most stations have their logo at the bottom left (like I’m too dense to know what channel I’m watching), and quite a few of them also fly advertising across the bottom of the screen at regular intervals. I’ve seen it get so bad that in one corner the ABC logo was covered by the local affiliate logo, which was all on top of some graphic telling me what show was on, while in the other corner there was some advertising blurb completely covering up the weather alert I was trying to see. That’s downright dangerous and irresponsible at that point.

I just don’t like ’em. I get enough advertising shoved at me in one day. I’m smart enough to know what channel I’m watching, and I know by watching the morning news show what shows I’m supposed to watch that evening; I don’t really need any more, thank you. I’m full.

Public Service Announcements

There must be a law that each local station must show a certain number of public service announcements. That’s good – we all need to be educated about AIDS, the benefits of staying in school and whatnot. The problem is that at least one station here in Sioux City runs ALL the public service announcements, nearly back-to-back, between 3 and 5 in the morning. I’m assuming that advertising is cheapest then, so it doesn’t cost the station so much in lost advertising revenue to run the PSA’s then. In any case, it’s pretty transparent, and I don’t like it. The whole point of PSA’s is to get them in front of lots and lots of people, and that’s not going to happen at 4 in the morning.

Continuing Woes

I switched to the new version of Blogger the other day. It worked fine the first time I used it, but I’ve had to re-write portions of this blog three or four times, as every time I try to “Save as Draft” or “Publish” it glitches out. Frustrating. Grrr… I had actually written a bit more on PSA’s, but it got lost, and so did my train of thought. I can’t remember the point I was making. Frustrating. Grrr…

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