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Monday November 20th 2017

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The Peak of Bullying: Go Ahead and Tune In

Lets be clear. Bullying isn’t anything new. It’s not like all of a sudden we have a bullying problem in the United States. The only difference lately is that the media has finally decided to address it. It is like anything in the United States. Nothing is important until the media decides to get to it- or it happens to a celebrity.

Of course now bullies have different ways to make their targets miserable. Now you can abuse people online, on phones, videos, and texts. You can start pages dedicated to bashing anybody. Where oh where do our kids learn to do this kind of stuff? Well, from us, obviously.

We are a country of extremes. There aren’t many rational people on television. Rationalism doesn’t sell advertising spots. Instead all my students love a woman named Snookie, who as far as I can tell, is still a bully. We glorify the behaviors bullies exhibit.

Last year I met a guy from LA. When I asked him what he did for a living, he said he worked for MTV. He said it proudly, as if I was supposed to raise my eyebrows and give him due praise. But when I didn’t recognize the name of the Reality Show he was working on, he became confused. “You don’t watch MTV?” He asked incredulously.

“No,” I replied. “And I can’t think of a worse channel anyone could watch.”

Do I watch MTV? I am thirty years old. When my channel does fall on MTV or anything like it, I might watch for 30 seconds or so just to witness the circus that is modern day television. But after 30 seconds I am so horrified I scramble to turn the television off before I think about the fact that twelve-year olds are raised on this stuff.

Of course, now I’m not being completely honest. Truthfully, I don’t even have a television anymore.

Here I will pause to allow you to gasp.

That’s right. My wife and I are without television. The weirdest thing about it for me is that we seem to be the only two people on earth who live like this.

As long as our children are surrounded by adults on television who every day reinforce the behaviors bullies exhibit, there isn’t going to be a buck in the trend. Our politicians sling mud further and more frequently than anyone. Popular musicians glorify violence, intolerance, materialism, and an over-the-top “I’m better than you” attitude (all traits of bullies). An actress without attitude does not have a reality show, therefore our only reality shows follow around people like the Kardashians, who don’t seem like the kind of girls who were picked on much in high school- on the contrary, they probably did all the picking themselves. You want to get attention? You need to have a sex tape, not a resume. You want to revive your acting career? End up in rehab-then violate the terms of your parole and spent a few nights in jail- don’t make lucid decisions. Where are the role-models exhibiting behaviors of tolerance and rationality? There are a few, but usually we only get as close as Tyra Banks admitting she was a bully. Of course you were Tyra. The unfortunate thing about that is all the girls hearing her say that, and wishing they could be just like her.

Most of the kids at my high school act like they have a camera crew following them around. The moment they leave my class they are on their cell-phones, texting the latest gossip, or sexting their boyfriends. They ridicule those below them, and are put down by those above them. Therefore it becomes a climb to be on the top of that Mythical Peak where you can make fun of everyone, yet no one can make fun of you. Very few get there, but everyone is trying.

You want to know where that Peak is? Television.

Addressing the problem of bullying on television is like trying to give gay people rights at a Tea Party Rally. We’re going to have a hard time making headway in the place where it is the worst.

Let me put it this way. The only people on television are tanned, gorgeous men and women who have always been hot- kind of like Tyra Banks. They were hot in high school, they continue to age well, but instead of doing dumb things on the quad they say dumb things to a camera. I teach at a high school, and the majority of the kids on that Peak of Superiority are the best-looking students at school. In a materialistic society like ours, looks trump everything, so if you’re hot, you can put anyone down, and the ugly kids can’t say a thing about it.

And where do all the hot people go? They go into television.

Our anchors, morning show hosts, talk show hosts, reality show stars, reporters, even our politicians- if you’re good looking, you have a shot. Look at our last Presidential races. Obama versus McCain. Bush vs. Kerry. Bush vs. Gore. Clinton vs. Bush. Why do we elect actors like Reagan and Schwarzenegger? Why weren’t Ross Perot and Ralph Nader ultimately successful? Why is Sarah Palin so successful? I bet you don’t even know who Dennis Kucinich is, do you? It is like we are literally living in a Ray Bradbury short story. It can’t be a novel because novels are too long and we’d get bored, plus there are no pictures of hot people.

Can we really get rid of bullying? I doubt it. Not when the movement against it is spearheaded by the people at the top of that Peak. Not when all our kids aspire to be them- the bullies. What can we do about it? Is there anything we can possibly do so our kids aren’t continually barraged by the attitudes of the best of the best and the hottest of the hot, and therefore strive to replicate those behaviors in their every action?

Yes there is. We can get rid of our televisions.

But now I’m the crazy one for even suggesting it, aren’t I?

Can you imagine all the things your kids might be interested in if they weren’t so tuned in to see what new ignominy Snookie is spitting? Or which complete strangers are going to try and marry a guy with millions of dollars simply because they will be on television? Or the five thousand other ignorant scenarios on what is literally 900 channels?

What might our youth be like if they weren’t raised watching “Real Housewives of New Jersey” and instead were raised watching real mothers take them to a park? Can you imagine the real people your kids might meet, and the lessons they might learn interacting with average-looking, quiet, thoughtful human beings? No, you probably can’t, because you can’t even imagine that for yourself.

But let me ask you this: If you stopped watching TV, what would you really be missing?

I don’t have a television, and I am missing one thing and one thing only: Listening to the bullies preaching from their peak.

Reader Feedback

4 Responses to “The Peak of Bullying: Go Ahead and Tune In”

  1. I am with you. I have a tv that is collecting dust in the corner–I may even donate it. Cable tv was gotten rid of a long time ago as an expense I can live without. TV is noisy and cluttered with fake reality and causes arguments whether it be what to watch or switching channels during commercials or who is in charge of the remote. TV and lots of technology is part of the demise of society, its attention span, and its intelligence.

    As for bullies, your demographics are completely different than mine, but, for some reason, bullies are afraid of me. The kids at our school have no faith guidance or administration with do something with bullies, but they believe I will. Bullies make me mad.

    Love reading all of your articles.

  2. Wendy says:

    This is one of the most intelligent and insightful opinions I’ve ever read.

    You are not alone. I disconnected the cable and turned off the TV several years ago and have not looked back. The only things I do miss are some of the science programs but I can look online for those, since I’m the computer teacher I get to be online a lot.

    I am a big anti-bullying advocate in my school. I am also gay and see a lot of the abuse kids who are perceived to be gay receive.

    There are some celebrities that are heroes. Ellen comes to mind, but people like that get lost in the noise of the brainless and mindless crap that passes for entertainment, on reality T.V. It’s a very warped version of reality and it’s warping our kids.

    We would have a kinder, gentler country without everyone staring at the flat screen box in their living room. Thanks for posting the truth.

    • Wendy,
      When I wrote this I was hoping it wouldn’t come off as some snobby, nose in the air, “I’m better than you because I don’t have a tv” type thing. I just honestly don’t see much reason to watch it anymore, and it sure is doing a number on our youth. I agree that there are lots of good shows and good heroes on television, and those were the only things I did watch when I had one. But our youth especially are not capable of weeding out the trash from what will help them grow as a person, and there is so much of it they just don’t stand a chance. Thank you for the kind words.

  3. Denise says:

    Thanks so much for this article! It was like a breath of fresh air. I am studying to be a TA, and trying to educate myself on school bullying before I get into the system. The TV part is fantastic. I’m 28 yrs old and I listen to my friends garbble on about all these shows I’ve never seen. (Thank God) We watch the discovery channel or HGTV’s renovation shows in our household. I couldn’t stand to watch the rest. I think you have to hold an IQ in the negatives to actually be entertained by that JUNK! (lol)
    Cheers,
    Denise

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