McAdams On: Civility
11/5/2010 2:11:21 PM
Thanks to the Internet, humiliation can be doled
out by strangers across the globe within seconds. So it was for a news crew at
KGTV-TV in San Diego this week. A video clip from a somewhat disastrous news
broadcast made the rounds, prompting repeated speculation that it may have been
the “worst newscast opening ever.”
The clip starts with the typical heavy-handed serious voice-over “from the 10
News Communications Center” with optically wack 3D graphics, and cuts to said
Communications Center where an unsuspecting reporter reads notes to herself
beside a blank screen. She looks up, somewhat startled, before the camera
immediately pans to the anchor desk, where the proceedings continue down hill.
Mere viral proliferation not being an adequate form of mortification,
anzel2002, who posted the video on
YouTube, added a few strains from “The Benny Hill Show” theme song.
“Here’s the first minute of San Diego ABC affiliate Channel 10’s 11 a.m.
newscast from September 12,”
says. “Everything that could have gone wrong did. Everything. Yes, folks--worst
Granted, the one-minute clip is a comedy of errors. And granted, working in
media comes with complementary back targets. But what if
everyone’s work performance were so conveniently public? What if
all of anzel2002’s work was out there
in the world to see? Then again, given the anonymity of the ’Net, anzel2002 may have been behind KGTV’s
camera just before he was replaced by robots.
I’m not above the occasional ribbing--both dishing and taking. I inveigh on
regulators regularly. However, if they deigned to bother, they’d know where to
find me. There are times I would love nothing more than to flame someone
anonymously, and I confess to passive-aggressive grousing about situations I’ve
not lifted a finger to ameliorate. Both, I realize, are unnecessary.
Grousing just perpetuates pessimism, which helps no one. Anonymous flaming is
something else all together, however. Foremost, it’s cowardly. Secondarily, it’s
meant to inflict pain. This dynamic is what’s otherwise known as “bullying.”
We’re just now beginning to understand that bullying is a deadly plague among
young people. Extreme outcomes have included suicide and mass murder. There’s a
great deal of discussion and angst over what to do about bullying, and yet a
complete disconnect between it and what’s deemed acceptable behavior by adults
today. That young people are negatively influenced by video games but not rancorous
political invective is absurd. That they are unaffected by the savage way some
adults comport themselves online is ignorant.
It may seem incomprehensible to link a one-minute blooper clip to violent and
destructive behavior among children, but perhaps that’s problem. We are so
inured to incivility, it’s become difficult to identify. And that’s a shame.
I watched the KGTV-TV clip--intentionally not included here. I cringed for all
the folks on camera. I don’t know, but I imagine all of them have worked hard
to get where they are. I would suppose they’ve done work that made their
I’m sorry that’s been distilled into 60 seconds of ridicule.