McAdams On: Civility

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,” anzel2002 says. “Everything that could have gone wrong did. Everything. Yes, folks--worst newscast ever.”

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 families proud.

I’m sorry that’s been distilled into 60 seconds of ridicule.