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Stupid is as stupid watches

By Paul Flower on Feb 21, 12 03:32 PM

My life is continually filled with wonder at the stupidity of my fellow man. The unthinking and casual nature of persistently dumb behaviour is quite simply astounding. This is not to portray myself as some kind of genius, the opposite would clearly be true, but the absence of what I would consider to be 'common' sense is often staggering.

Let's ignore the behaviour of Haye and Chisora as we should, simply because they're meat-heads whose daily life consists of muscling up and punching things. Even they should've known better than to get dragged down to the level of the bar-room/playground brawl but the majority of right-thinking people have never regarded modern boxing as the sport of 'gentlemen'. I'd be grateful though if you didn't point out that I'd called them meat-heads since I've met David Haye and I wouldn't like to fight him even if he is 'out of shape'.

I saw a TV show last night called 'My Social Network Stalker' which related the story of Ruth Jeffrey, a girl then in her late teens who'd endured three and a half years of online stalking and other harassment. So far, so harrowing you might say, except that the identity of the stalker should've been painfully obvious from very early on.

Let's simplify a seventy minute documentary in one question: If someone's posting naked photographs and pornographic videos of you, isn't it most likely to be the person who took the aforementioned photos and videos and in whose possession they've always been? We all know about hacking but the quantity of footage, clear knowledge of passwords, phone numbers, addresses not to mention the duration of the harassment (years) was such that it could only have been one person.

It was the type of TV show that provokes you into shouting at the screen, a level of dumbing down that leads you to become the dumb one as you feel your brain cells dying whilst watching. Even ITV crime shows don't have perpetrators that are this obvious or victims that you feel sympathy towards but for entirely the wrong reasons.

It took her dad to find the evidence and the snail's trail back to the worm concerned which only led me to believe that the police previously couldn't have been too bothered to spend time on it. Stalking, harassment and bullying are all real crimes (cyber or otherwise) it was just sad that this appeared to be a trivialisation. The whole pitch was that we should all be afraid of this happening to us; unfortunately it just seemed that the majority of us would've worked it out and possibly stopped it a bit earlier.

It's a common theme of course, reality tv in particular seems to be made for the dumb and featuring the dumb. Indeed we're all so apparently dumb that our documentaries need a full précis of the previous action after every advertising break, they don't expect us to keep up or to have remembered the bulk of the 30 minutes we've just watched. Maybe they think the ads are so absorbing that they'll have wiped our memories, it certainly fails to take account of the fact that fewer are watching in real time - we'll generally all have skipped the ads anyway.

They probably think we're all on Twitter or Facebook commenting on the action so we won't have been paying full attention. Many TV shows pander to this, using their own on-screen hashtags in case we're too stupid to think of them ourselves or in a vain attempt to 'trend'. UK TV clearly believes in the myth of the shortened attention span and many 'yoof' programmes try to embrace it.

I note that BBC 3's Being Human frequently finishes with the continuity guy reading out tweets that have been circulating during the broadcast. Only the complimentary ones of course - thereby creating an audience of ingrates who are just posting flattering comments in order to get their name read out on TV. Perhaps they want a crowd that chat cheerily about a programme they're clearly not even concentrating on.

It's almost certainly true that if you don't want your intelligence insulted you should avoid the main channels during the peak hours, we may all need time away from 'thinking' and concentration but there are clearly levels of escapism - how far from cognitive thought do we want to stray? It comes to something when the escape route from reality involves TV's version of the same, excepting that it's nothing like any reality most of us are familiar with - reality but stupider.

The meek may inherit the earth but the stupid are getting the TV.

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