Sunday, August 19, 2007

TV: Another cesspool trying to pass for news

I'm an insider, I been burned by the fire

And I've had to live with some hard promises

I've crawled through the briers -- I'm an insider

Stevie Nicks sings the above on Tom Petty & the Heartbreaker's "Insider" (we prefer the live version on Pack Up The Plantation Live!). A show probing the insiders in government (both in official positions and just 'friends' to the elected) could make for a solid hour of TV, putting their lives under the microscope but you know TV, they prefer to go the other way. ABC has a new summer treat, it's called The Outsiders and airs under the Primetime umbrella. They trotted it out last August as well and if you're thinking an hour of television exploring one topic can result in hard hitting news you obviously missed last year's examination of a couple raising a chimp as their child.

This summer's focus includes topics such as "when siblings are also lovers!" so if you're thinking it's Jerry Springer with less yelling and more voice overs, you are correct.

Last week, they went with "They're an all-American family -- only with multiple wives!" The setting was Centennial Park, Arizona and the hour was all about the buzz as alleged news reporters tossed out things like "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and "The Bachelor: Polygam Edition." Too 'cute' for this world? Too 'cute' to qualify as journalists.

The focus was on 32-year-old Ariel Hammon and, despite the name, he is a male. Which was a shame because you got the feeling if he'd been a female, the non-news staff would have asked him to don a fishtail and tried to promote a tie-in with corporate parent Disney's The Little Mermaid. Hammon is no tootsie in a push-up, conch shell bra. He's considered 'attractive' in his own community and, should multiple chins ever catch in larger society, he might be considered attractive in the mainstream as well. Hammon currently has two wives and, as we type, he may be searching for number three.

Helen is now 30-years-old and she's birthed seven children. Lisa is 20-years-old so she's only had time to give birth to two. Both were drawn to Hammon when they were his math students in high school. It's a nice little racket . . . if you're a male.

They are not without problems, you quickly learn, space is an issue. But the community (males) help out by doing home additions. Of course that wasn't the problem that concerned the male reporter. His question was much more base and prurient, how do they figure out sleeping arrangements?

Ariel decides who he wants to sleep with. Not-so-studly Ariel explains that it's for the wives to deal with any conflict between themselves over his selections and young Lisa explains, "If it [Ariel's interest] goes away for her, what's going to happen to me when another wife comes in? I want him to love her as much as he loves me."

Now ABC's write up online doesn't do it justice because it's all "Dear Penthouse . . ." titillation. Those who caught the broadcast are well aware that other issues were addressed -- not as much as the sex but what do you expect from the cesspool that ABC News seems determined to be?

Ariel explained he was very religious (this was after the wives insisted Jesus Himself had multiple wives and they had been taught that as children -- another detail the cutesy write up of the cutesy broadcast overlooks). He is moral, you understand. And African-Americans are not.

He explained that and how they were the children of Cain and how they were cursed. When questioned about how his religion didn't sound very encompassing and makes him sound like a racist (the newsie worded it more kindly), Ariel replied, "Perhaps it does, what can I say?"

What can we say? How about the religion in question is, of course, Mormon? Maybe Mitt Romney should be asked whether he believes African-Americans are cursed and a curse before he next explains how his five sons serve their country by campaigning for him? We'd hope that's not the case but since ABC promoted it as such, there should be some questions.

The Outsiders is a cheap thrill ride and we aren't exempting ourselves. (More on that in a moment.) It should be subtitled: For Those Who've Longed to Watch Springer But Have Been Afraid to Try.

It existed to push buttons and it certainly pushed ours.

We debated at length, after the program, how this should be dealt with or even if it should be?

If this were a family in Manhattan with three spouses (not all formally married), would we raise an eyebrow? No.

But in other areas, Atlanta, GA is another example of an area that wouldn't raise an eyebrow for us, the children growing up would be educated. This isn't a free choice, this is an extreme religious mandate.

Listening to a pathetic teenage female insist that she looks forward to being one of many wives demonstrates this is not a free choice. She declared, "If he has six or seven wives, I'd accept that. The man is not ours. We are given to the man but we can't claim him. So as many wives as he would want, he can have. As long as it's what God wants."

We seriously doubt God's spending all Her time worrying whether or not Ariel's satisfied his nookie cravings. But pay attention to that teenage girl's statement because we attempted to be open-minded (about the multiple spouses, not about the racism) and explore our own prejudices. We kept coming back to that statement. And the grinning teenage males (including a George P. Bush lookalike) who just came off so entitled (they largely avoided speaking on camera) and so pleased as punch.

The women are taught that they are "given" and that they have no "claim" on their husband. And of course, it's not the other way around. If a woman in the community decided she wanted to practice the converse and stock up on husbands, she'd be run out of town (if she were lucky).

These young girls are raised with nothing but lies. This isn't people choosing a living situation.
A man living with two consenting, informed women or one woman living with two consenting, informed males (or more for either), it's not our bag, but hey, whatever.

But these people are isolated in a community of 1200. The young girls are taught that they are gifts and that they have no say (the church -- run by the males -- arranges the marriages). They are taught that Jesus had multiple wives.

And we kept coming back to a story we heard on the road Tuesday when speaking about the illegal war to a women's group. After other women had spoken, one woman stood up and said she was against the illegal war but wanted to bring up something "completely off topic" because it had happened that morning and it still disturbed her. She was a municipal worker and headed a department. The city's public property was wanted for an event. The man wanting it showed up for the scheduled meeting. She extended her hand and he refused to shake it. He instead shoved his hand out to a male she had hired the week before and began talking to him while ignoring her completely.

The male worker had to repeatedly turn to her and ask if this or that arrangement were alright? It was as though he was translating.

She asked the man, who was Muslim, at the end of the meeting why he ignored her handshake and her hand. She listened as he explained to her male underling that it is sexual and forbidden to touch another woman besides one's wife and that he avoids all contact with women who are not his wife.

Now you've probably heard a similar story at some point in the last few years. (And certainly Ellen Goodman's written about this before in her columns.) But the woman goes into her office and calls her supervisor to explain what has just happened. His reply (yeah, it's a man) was that maybe they should have the new guy (who hasn't even passed his six months probation) handle these matters?

That's where we say, "Your attitude is crap" -- don't blame it on a religion when you're choosing to mingle with people who don't practice it.

A man wants to utilize public property, he damn well better be able to interact with everyone or keep his bigoted ass off public property. The city the woman works for has a tolerance policy (we asked) and she mentioned that to her boss who explained that they had to be "tolerant" of others. No, that's not how it works. The policy (we asked and, later in the week, she e-mailed us a copy of it) speaks both of tolerance in the population and tolerance in the work force. That means she can't discriminate against someone and that should also mean citizens can't openly discriminate against her. The city is supposed to protect their employees.

If a citizen had showed up and been waited on by a male who was gay, created a huge scene about the man being gay, he would have been asked to leave. By the same token, she heads the department, she is over all scheduling and booking, and if someone can't interact with her because she's a woman, then they aren't showing tolerance.

Her concern, the woman's, was that her city has a growing Muslim population and not all Muslims are as 'strict' in their interactions but, if it's thought that they are, she sees this new hire (male) getting to do her duties and wonders at what point she, who has given 12 years to this city, is going to find herself phased out?

That's discrimination. If your religion forbids you to interact with women, gays, lesbians, people of color, you have no business holding an event on public property. If you can't interact with the person in charge of the city property, you have no business requesting it.

The man was attempting to show that Muslims were just like everyone else . . . and promote his new business. We don't think he should have been granted access to public property if he refuses to interact with women. And we damn sure don't think that because bigots exist in society a city with a tolerance policy should consider removing capable employees (discrimination) because prejudices refuse to allow the bigots to interact with them.

This is the United States and everyone is free to worship however they please (including not worshipping). They're also free to think whatever they want. However, they are not free to discriminate. One woman in the group, a Muslim, knew the man (whom the city worker had not identified by name) and called him a "real pig." She explained he runs a store and will not wait on a woman who comes in by herself or with other women. He refuses those women service. So if you're starving and unmarried or widowed, prepare to starve. She had filled a basket, gone to check out and had him ignore her while looking straight through her. She compared it to places that, in this country, once refused service to African-Americans.

We agree. We further feel that should the city employee and the man bump into one another in a grocery store, he can ignore her all he wants (and she him) but when he's needing a city service and she's the one over it, he either needs to find a way to interact with her or he needs to forget about the city service. And no city needs to accommodate him by providing him with a male. If a woman has the job, she has the job. If she's in charge, she's in charge. And if he can't handle that, he can do without whatever he believes he sorely needs. (The woman said she's praying for the day he has an issue with his water service because all the workers in the water office are women.)

(For the record, we do have Muslim male friends who will not shake any woman's hands but none of them refuse to talk to or interact with women. If they did, they obviously wouldn't be our friends. We also have friends who are much less 'othordox.')

So we kept coming back to that. We kept coming back to this extreme version of a religion that teaches women that they have no rights, teaches them that Jesus had multiple wives, teaches them that African-Americans are cursed. And we kept coming back to the very closed society they lived in that reinforced those beliefs. We saw no free will. We saw no evidence of independent thinking. We saw indoctrination.

And before we knew it, we'd wasted an hour of time discussing the topic.

It is a thrill ride, The Outsiders. It's also junk news. It's as though ABC heard of the late and lamented Freeks & Geeks, thought that was a news program and decided to copy it. Imagine if that weekly hour were used on real news, imagine if they used it to explore the illegal war, the Pentagon's cost overruns, the realities of No Child Left Behind or any other topic that very much touches American lives?

Instead, they want to explore multiple wives, they want to explore siblings that sleep together, chimps raised as children. It's Springer and his cast of oddballs done in a more subdued manner. But it's not news. And that the same Disney Corporation that refused to distribute Micheal Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 while claiming they couldn't afford to offend anyone (while, it should be noted, programming right-wingers constantly on their ABC talk radio line up), thinks they can offer this crap and get away with it by calling it news may be the most offensive thing about The Outsiders.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }