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Article:   Decline In Values Easy to See in Television

By Janet Pfeiffer
Daily Record
Sept. 16, 2008

I didn't think I could be any more disillusioned with television. Being inundated with rampant sexual behavior, violence, and bad attitudes has dampened my interest in watching TV. I have never been fond of reality shows where people, marooned on deserted islands, eat insects to survive. However, if that's what lights their fire, more power to them.

But then I noticed contestants forming alliances against one another. The winner was not determined by who was more physically fit: this became a competition of back-stabbing mind games and betrayal. This format even appeared on one of my favorite shows that searched for the funniest comedian in America. I found no humor in watching comedians plotting to vote off those who were more talented simply because they posed a greater threat to winning the competition. What happened to good sportsmanship, winning on one's merit to excel at what one does? For me, the show lost all credibility and appeal.

And then came 'The Moment of Truth' and television finally hit an all-time low. The premise of this show is to encourage ordinary people to bear the most intimate details of their lives before millions of viewers in an attempt to win hundreds of thousands of dollars. In front of their families and friends, they are willing to risk everything and 'tell all'. With no concern for the feelings of their loved ones, not only do they damage their own reputations and put themselves at risk (by admitting to illegal or unethical behaviors) but humiliate, embarrass, and hurt the ones they claim to love. One EMT admitted to falsifying records and touching a female patient unprofessionally (he was later fired from his job for doing so) while another contestant admitted to cheating on their spouse. A young woman confessed to posting nude photos of herself on the internet while her father sat on stage, clearly heartbroken. Few showed any remorse or shame for what they had done and even worse, cared little about the impact their 'confessions' had on their families.

What kinds of messages are these shows sending and what does this reveal about the tragic state of our values?

We live in a society where moral values are almost extinct and ethical behavior has become obsolete. 'If it feels good, do it.' 'If you want something, take it - even if it doesn't belong to you.' 'If you hurt someone, oh well, that's life.' 'Do whatever it takes to win.' 'Anything goes.' This shameless, self-absorbed mindset is eroding the moral fiber of our country.

We have long been a society that worships fame and money. People have always engaged in unethical, illegal or immoral acts in order to obtain riches. I grew up in an era that frowned and disapproved of that type of behavior. Inhumane treatment of others was abhorrent. Today, we glorify it. It has even become a form of entertainment. When did deceit and betrayal become acceptable? When did 'five minutes of fame' become more important than respect for a family's privacy? When did arrogance and self-centeredness become admirable qualities? Why is it acceptable to cheat and hurt one another?

When money and fame become more important than personal integrity and ethical behavior, we as a society are in serious danger of moral collapse. The real threat to this country isn't the economy or the energy crisis or even that of foreign terrorists. The real threat to America is the decline of moral and ethical values and the disrespectful and arrogant treatment of one another.

I am not judging those who have made bad choices in life or choices that I personally don't agree with. What distresses me is the fact that some are eager to sacrifice everything, even those they love, for money and fame and that viewers encourage them to do so.

It's time that we as a society raise (or perhaps the word is 'restore') the bar on moral and ethical behavior and live lives of personal and professional integrity. Let our behavior reflect honor, respect and dignity for all humankind. After all, we have a young generation that is counting on us to be the example.

Janet Pfeiffer is a columnist for the Daily Record.

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