It’s 1984, but we are Big Brother

A video of ESPN reporter Britt McHenry is making the rounds on social and traditional media for her berating a towing company employee. I’ve seen the video, and yes, she was out of line. She was angry and pompous, reminiscent of Alec Baldwin in many ways. These kinds of videos get clicks though, people want to see these melt downs. But as entertaining as they are, I’m not so sure I like the idea of recording and publicizing them.

Our society seems to be taking on for itself the role of Big Brother’s thought police, and everyone is carrying their own portable telescreen. Our worst moments are being caught on audio or video and shown to the world. Then what? People are “forced” to apologize and often lose their job. They are punished financially for having a bad day or just being rude. Should McHenry apologize? Yes. But not to us, to the employee she berated. We have no stake in the argument.

This is nothing more than societal thought-policing. We’ve been headed down this road for a while and I don’t particularly care for it. With the amount of times I hear “don’t take this the wrong way…” or, “I don’t mean any offence, but…” you’d think thought-crime was an actual crime. Not just any thought or opinions, just the unfashionable ones and that’s dangerous.

When you punish ideas and opinions, you run the risk of being at the dirty end of the stick someday. Trends change, and your ideas can become unfashionable at any time. But it will be too late, you’ll have apoligized, but with pink slip grasped firmly in hand all for thinking the wrong thing.

Comments

  1. I haven’t watched the video. I did hear about it on the radio this morning. One thing I would say is that I don’t really think this is thought-policing. While I agree with you that the reporter is ultimately only responsible to apologize to the parking attendant, which she absolutely should do. She owes the general public nothing. However, once the thought leaves the mind and turns into words or deeds, it’s no longer just thoughts.

    • I finally took a minute and watched the video. Let me just say, I would never behave that way to a person who is doing their job and if I did I would hope someone would call me out on it. I don’t know if the other person, whose face you cannot see in the video, is with the reporter or if the person is in line. Either way her actions were public, not private, so publicly shaming them (I’m not necessarily saying posting it on youtube to go viral), isn’t out of order. Yes, anyone can have a bad day, but these aren’t the actions of a person just having a bad day. This speaks to character. Now, do I think she should lose her job over it? I don’t necessarily agree with that, but I don’t necessarily think ESPN is out of line to make her apologize, either. Had she not been videoed and had she not been publicly called out she might have just as easily walked away from the incident still with the attitude that she’s pretty, she’s on tv, and she has an degree so that means she can talk to those beneath her station any way she pleases.

  2. I just watched the video and all I saw was an arrogant, pompous ass.

    In a way I agree with you, John. But sometimes things like this are helpful to demonstrate the real character of those we see on the TV and make idols of.

    I also don’t agree that it is being “thought police,” because this wasn’t just thoughts – it was rude and obnoxious behavior.

    • The idea is that when someone acts in a way that (the collective) we disapprove of, it is put on public mass display to be publicly shamed. The problem then manifests in people conforming to the way those in social power approve of or else. Or else you get fired, or else you lose your business, or else you lose whatever.

  3. Well, there is certainly a difference between exposing the average person on the street and a public person. Just like we expose those false teachers who are in the public eye. Expose these public people for what they are.

    • But even public figures. Do they lose the privilege of being a real person, flaws included, lest they lose their job…their means to support themselves and family?

      • It really depends on what the job is. This lady is a reporter, and if people see what she is like in real life, they might not want to watch that station. They SHOULD see what she is like in real life, and how she thinks of herself as a TV personality, and that everyone else is beneath her. For that, YES, fire her. She brings disgrace on the station. Let her get a job that isn’t on TV.

  4. Should she lose her job? I dunno. Maybe. She is a face of her employer, more so than someone behind the camera. In that, her actions in public, even on her own time, do reflect on her employer. Indeed, so do our own actions reflect, not only our employer, but our family and associates. To expose one’s self as an ass should bring an expectation of being held to account in some manner.

    As to being “Big Brother”, I find that more endurable than if there was actually a governmental Big Brother. That is, had our society been more concerned with holding each other accountable, I would imagine we’d have less of the social problems with which we now face. There was a time when girls were regarded as either a “good girl” or a “bad girl” based on perceptions of a girl’s behavior. If a girl was suspected of engaging in sex, she was a bad girl unworthy of bringing home to Mother. There were a lot less unwed mothers back then.

    This practice of recording and then posting the recordings of others engaging in bad behaviors makes sense considering how difficult it is to call someone out on their bad behavior. “Who are YOU to tell ME how to live??!!” Just post them doing stupid stuff and shame the hell out of them. Imagine if everyone thought there was someone just waiting to catch them doing wrong. Everyone would be on their best behavior more often. As Christians, we know Someone is watching, so we strive to keep that in mind before we act stupidly. Back when I was a kid (when dinosaurs roamed the earth), the whole neighborhood was watching. Cell phones have come to stand in the place of the nosy neighbor down the street who ratted you out to your mother.

    The more I think about it, the more I like the idea.

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