--Richard E. Vatz
When in 1962 the steel industry raised prices, constituting what President John F. Kennedy thought was an unjustifiable increase, he famously said, “My father always told me that all businessmen were sons-of-bitches, but I never believed him until now.”
I must make my biases clear before revealing a rare (for me) conniption: I do not think that all or even most businessmen are sons-of-bitches; in fact, the ones with whom I am familiar are ethically solid and largely responsible for America’s economic greatness, which is in brief respite now.
Lisa de Moraes, one of my favorite journalistic critics, of THE WASHINGTON POST, which incidentally has several other excellent ones including Howard Kurtz and periodic critic Paul Farhi, exposed the fact that Fox, my otherwise favorite network, “is in production on ‘Someone’s Gotta Go,’ ” a “reality series.”
Let Moraes summarize what the show is about: “Each week, a different company will be showcased. Each week, that company's boss or owner will call the employees together and tell them someone has to be laid off. He or she will give the employees all the available information about one another -- salaries, job evaluations, etc. -- and let them decide who gets the pink slip.” They will be assisted by a professional “business coach,” who will abet the firing decision.
Is there a decent human being who could participate in such a sadistic-without-redeeming-features enterprise?
David Goldberg, CEO of Endemol, the partner-in-crime in producing this outrage with head Fox reality show-creator Mike Darnell, sniggers that the show is propitiously timed because, after all, what could be more “relevant and topical than people in financial difficulties?” The one outstanding question is whether Goldberg and Darnell are more sadistic or cowardly: no boss may be fired on this show.
Asked by Moraes about the legality of revealing employees’ job evaluations and other personnel matters on national television, they wouldn’t answer. Surprised that cowardice and sadism correlate with sneakiness and evasiveness? You shouldn’t be.
I would never suggest that viewers boycott the advertisers and participating corporations involved in this barbarian show…but what could be a more condign punishment for those responsible for publicly humiliating the actual “people in financial difficulties?”
Professor Vatz teaches Media Criticism at Towson University
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
--Richard E. Vatz