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Friday, June 14, 2024

I think Laura Ellermeyer’s column Tuesday is all wrong. First off, there is nothing atrocious about McDonald’s except how awesome they are—but then that’s not really the point of her column; the ethical responsibilities of reality TV is the point.

America is built on a simple concept that gets incredibly complicated as it scales up to a fully functioning society. It’s called “individual liberty.”

In short, do you own your body or does the state? Your answer to that question has huge implications for where we go from there. If you believe, like I do, that you own your body, then whatever you do with it–so long as you don’t hurt another or deprive them of their liberty–is entirely your call. That includes poisoning it with booze, cigarettes, drugs or renting it out for money for someone else’s sexual gratification. In those instances, there is no ethical obligation to do anything to stop the behavior–illegal or not. Distasteful? Certainly. Pitiful? No doubt about it. It is, however, these free people’s choice to do drugs or prostitute themselves or to live in their cars.

There are outreach programs galore, both public and private, that these people could avail themselves of. It isn’t TV’s responsibility to do anything to these people they don’t want done. Were there actions in violation of those two principles–harming another or denying them their liberty–then any spectator would be ethically bound to act. Television does plenty of heartfelt things (think “Extreme Home Makeover” and “Oprah”) though the ratings are why they do it.

Television is a business and as such it gives the market what it wants, and what it enjoys more than nearly anything else is watching people that have it so much worse than they do. Sex sells? Not nearly as well as Schadenfreude, it appears.

Editor's note: This letter refers to this column.

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