The Dysfunction of Entertainment As Value

This quote from a recent Irish Times article points out the reconstruction of societal values that occurred as a result of the introduction of television:

WHAT TELEVISION DOES, sometimes in spite of itself, is to elevate one value above all others: entertainment. The American critic Neil Postman has noted the way in which even film of a real horror, like a deadly earthquake, on TV news is entertaining: “Actually to see buildings topple is exciting, no matter where the buildings are.”

But the converse is also true: no matter how important a person you are or how weighty the things you have to say, television won’t love you unless you are entertaining.

This is the big thing that TV did to Irish society. It slowly eroded the idea that certain people – politicians and, especially, bishops – must be listened to because of the offices they hold. Being boring was the new mortal sin.

The idea of entertainment as the paramount value in society is reflected in our 24 hour “news” networks that favor controversy and sound bites above reasoned, civil political discourse. 

I won’t berate television programming further because it’s already been done to death, and, in my opinion, what entertains someone else is not my place to judge. However, entertainment becoming the most important value is something I think we can all agree is harmful to society as a whole.

This New Year, maybe a good resolution would be to read more, grow more, and learn more, instead of just being entertained.