Hypocrisy Be Damned, The Show Must Go On

May 19, 2003  •  Post A Comment

We are a forgiving people. If we weren’t, Joan Rivers would not have a career right now. Neither would Robert Downey Jr. And Bill Clinton would likely have been exiled to, say, Patagonia or Tegucigalpa (Tegucigalpa, you must first get behind the galpa. Sorry about that)-instead of being allowed to roam free in Manhattan and other environs. He may even be coming to an environ near you.
There is, however, one thing that really ticks “us” off (if George Will can speak for 300 million people, so can I)-one thing we hold tantamount to unforgivable sin-and that thing is hypocrisy. That’s beyond the pale. It galls and appalls, because it takes dishonesty one unsavory step further. Thus did a large percentage of the citizenry get properly outraged-or else, like me, have themselves a big fat chuckle-when a prominent pontificating moralist was recently discovered to have hugely overindulged in the pricey vice of gambling. This wasn’t as good as a televangelist being caught in a motel room in a state of de-pantsification, but it was in that league.
The fact is, though, we live with a lot of hypocrisy every day, and television is the dutiful messenger that delivers it into our homes and workplaces. And when you’re inundated with hypocrisy night and day, it can make you lose your bearings and become cynical. Politicians are the guiltiest, of course; it comes so naturally to them. It isn’t hard to find it, though, in commercials, nor even in PSAs, the public service ads that are sometimes just commercials in drag.
Such as: Those very thoughtful and conscientious ads telling you not to let your kids smoke, brought to you via the largesse, noblesse oblige and humanitarian zeal of such tobacco companies as Philip Morris. Often such ads are not the result of public-spirited philanthropy or soul-searching guilt, but instead come about thanks to a class-action suit or regulatory edict (not that regulatory edicts are very fashionable these days).
Companies that make beer and liquor like to run the occasional good-deed PSA too, like when a holiday is coming up and people are likely to belt down more than their usual share of booze. The ads caution moderation and designated drivers and waiting until you’re 21 and all that other stuff. But we all know the company wants you to glug away to your heart’s if not your head’s content. And why not, because the other ads, the ones with the big production budgets and the nubile young models, say beer makes men more manly and women more womanly and sex more sexy.
An ad I heard on the radio other day really scaled new heights of hypocritical bull. It was all about a rock ‘n’ roll band whose members, in enthusiastic sound bites, testified about the sanctity and nobility of the music they make, and how they weren’t out to sell records but to express their innermost thoughts and feelings. No big bloated conglomerate was going to buy their souls for a song, or their songs for a sou, or whatever. No sir, these guys weren’t going to sell out-and they took a bundle of cash from a beer company to tell us all that on the radio.
AOL, one of my very favorite big-hearted companies, has just launched what appears to be its biggest anti-spam campaign yet. Now you can just press a key or two on the keyboard and report to AOL that you did not request nor desire the e-mail ad promising you a 3-inch-longer penis or a way to make a fortune stuffing envelopes or swift and nifty access to discounted ink-jet cartridges. Of course before you get to the spam-removal buttons or even to the spam, you’ve got to cut your way through a jungle of AOL’s own pop-ups, which are easily as spammy as the spammiest spam ever spammed, to almost quote Monty Python.
As might be expected, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. holds the world record for bald-faced hypocrisy in self-promotion. Bad enough that Bill O’Reilly calls his hugely opinionated TV show a “no-spin zone” when everything on the program has to go through his own personal spin cycle. But then the promo department at Fox News Channel, or maybe Roger Ailes himself, came up with the most absurd slogan Fox could possibly wave in our faces: “Real Journalism, Fair and Balanced.” OK, the only word in there with any truth to it is “and.” Even that seems somehow suspect. It’s almost cute that the most biased network would have the chutzpah to pronounce itself the least biased.
Other examples of hypocrisy are more subtle. I am a big fan of what might be called Car-Cam television-shows that feature footage shot from cameras mounted on squad-car dashboards and overhead views of car chases shot from helicopters. I just love that stuff. What bugs me is that the program’s narrator, usually an ex-cop, yammers on and on about how foolhardy, reckless and antisocial the nasty little perpetrators are. Hey, dude! If it weren’t for the perps, as we in armchair law-enforcement call them, you wouldn’t have a show! Ever think of that? If the “bad guys” don’t daringly and hopelessly try to evade pursuing police and lead cops on wild chases through hill and dale (and through the intersection of Hill Street and Dale Avenue), Real Stories of the Highway Patrol would go belly-up in a twinkling.
After all, never once in the history of his show did Ed Sullivan ever tell a trainer not to let his elephant sit on him, or raise a huge foot over his wife’s head. Nor did Ed ever lecture The Great Pudenda about the inherent risks of throwing big sharp knives at a shapely babe in a bustier. That would have been hypocritical-and, maybe almost as bad, would have flown in the face of an age-old and time-honored tradition. In other words, the show would not go on.