Naivety TV


A few years ago there was a minor public outcry when the BBC admitted to spending millions on the evening news’ opening graphics. These 10 second bursts of visual expensiveness were apparently intended to convey a sense of importance, authority and restrained urgency, so the viewers at home would sit up and pay attention.

Judging from this ultra-high spending, TV bosses are anxious to have their news programmes taken seriously. This has led to a presentation of the news which, in its fanfare and gloss, is similar to professionally staged business seminars and political conferences. Unlike those events, however, TV news isn’t meant to be about persuading, hypnotising or dazzling an audience – so why spend millions on its presentation?

Well, for one thing it costs money to create a convincing illusion. The news presents one of the most impressive magic tricks since the Emperor’s New Clothes. The illusion is of a serious, businesslike, adult world – economics, politics, stock market indexes and inflation rates – full of “experts” and presided over by “The Authorities”. Naturally we feel powerless as individuals to influence this world since it can be accessed only on TV. The slick presentation of the illusion – immaculate suits, gleaming studios, intimidating presenters and those costly visuals – has the effect of reducing most (relatively shabby) viewers to a state of infantile awe and low self-esteem.

This news world is built on “conventional wisdom” – ie “adult” assumptions and clichés which can’t be questioned, because to do so would be an admission of foolishness or childlike innocence. Presenters and pundits obviously like to be seen as authoritative, so they tend to fall back on safe assumptions rather than explore unknown areas and risk looking naive.

Unfortunately, it’s precisely this lack of naivety and innocence which leads to the stagnation of media debate. These childlike qualities are valuable – they have the potential to embarrass the “experts” and expose the banality behind the adult gloss. For example, a child might ask: “why is Daddy always so tired and sad when he comes home from work?”. No economics pundit has ever provided a satisfactory answer to that question. Taking such “childish” questions as an inspiring starting point, I’ve compiled my own list of “naive” questions and “foolish” answers which I’d like to see featured on a serious news or current affairs show:

Naive Question: Is school education a good thing?
Foolish Answer: Yes. It’s producing exactly what society needs: economically frightened clones ready to slot straight into low-paid menial jobs.

Naive Question: Do we have to be tough on crime?
Foolish Answer: Without crime there’d be no need for police, lawyers, courts or prisons. That would mean mass unemployment and the end of society as we know it. The “tough on crime” policy is okay as long as it doesn’t reduce crime.

Naive Question: Does advertising make any sense?
Foolish Answer: The huge number of car commercials on TV makes no sense at all. How can the UK market for new cars be big enough to justify that amount of advertising? It’s not as if everyone can afford a new car – most people have trouble paying their electricity bills. The saturation advertising for Amoy noodles is similarly puzzling.

Naive Question: Is the “free market” a good thing?
Foolish Answer: Many people claim the existing system is not a “free market” but “Monopoly Capitalism” based on protection rackets (eg land ownership) and usury (eg banking). This apparently goes back to the Bronze Age, when spear-wielding thugs extracted rent from peaceful settlements. These ancient thugs were the first land “owners” (and the first land “lords”, barons and kings). The people they exploited and turned into slaves were the true wealth creators – they grew the food, raised the livestock, made the tools and built the dwellings.

Naive Question: Why do adherents of the “free market” support the BBC?
Foolish Answer: The market can be trusted to provide our water, food, transport, electricity, gas, communications and refuse disposal, but it can’t be trusted to provide our television programmes. We need the BBC for that.

Naive Question: Why does the BBC compete for viewers?
Foolish Answer: It seems that the BBC is pretending to be part of the competitive market, possibly to disguise the fact that, with its public hand-out funding, it’s essentially the country’s largest welfare recipient.

Naive Question: The BBC allegedly employs 2000 journalists. What do they all do?
Foolish Answer: That will probably remain a mystery.

Naive Question: Is crime the biggest concern people have?
Foolish Answer: Statistically, people are more concerned about their dentist appointments than about crime.

Naive Question: If TV reflects real-life concerns, why do crime shows outnumber dentistry shows by a thousand to one?
Foolish Answer: Exactly! And why do TV shows never feature landlords or bankers?

Naive Question: Nobody seems to care when neighbours’ burglar alarms go off. Would it help to restore our sense of civic duty if the alarms had a louder, more piercing sound?
Foolish Answer: Research indicates there would be an increase in violent incidents due to noise-related stress.

Naive Question: Is food safe?
Foolish Answer:
If manufacturers can’t prevent traces of nuts getting into food, then what other contaminants can get in? To restore public faith in the honesty of the food producers, warning labels should be extended to say: “may contain traces of nuts, rat faeces, rat urine, rat parts, dead insects, live insects, human effluvia, human skin, human hair, toenails, fingernails and assorted dormant and active bacteria of known and unknown origin.”

Naive Question: Should we teach children to be competitive (putting self first), or to be considerate (putting others first)?
Foolish Answer: Both. Then we should teach them the importance of behavioural consistency.

Naive Question: Are money makers the real heroes of society?
Foolish Answer: “Making money” shouldn’t be confused with “creating wealth”. Real wealth is what supports and enhances human life, whereas money is just numbers in a database. Many wealth creators (inventors, artists, mothers, etc) are penniless, and many money makers are useless bloodsuckers.

Naive Question: Are banks friendly, like in the adverts?
Foolish Answer: Banks make large profits from “unauthorised overdraft” charges. Credit card companies make large profits from “late payment” fees. But they tell us not to go overdrawn or pay late. So they’re fucking with our heads while they rob us blind. But otherwise they’re friendly.

Naive Question: Is it really cheating if athletes use performance-enhancing substances?
Foolish Answer: Only if the substances are ingested. It’s not considered cheating to enhance performance with anything worn or surgically implanted (muscle grafts, organ transplants, bionic limbs, etc).

Naive Question: Why have breakfast cereals adopted sensible names (eg “Sustain”, “Perfect Balance”, “Just Right” and “Advantage”)?
Foolish Answer: Because marketing consultants determined that 51% of cereal consumers have anal fixations about diet, health and fitness. Watch out for forthcoming name changes: Bran Flakes to “Nice ’n’ Regular” and Frosties to “Blood-Glucose Boost”.

Naive Question: Why are there so many beggars in a booming economy like Britain?
Foolish Answer: It pays more, and humiliates less, than work in telesales.

Naive Question: Is there anything bad about full employment?
Foolish Answer:
Not if you’re happy to condemn half the population to minimum-wage slavery, flushing creative potential down the economic toilet, so a politician can tell the country how prudent he is. Or to quote Henry Hazlitt: “Hitler provided full employment. Prisons and chain gangs have full employment. Coercion can always provide full employment.”

Naive Question: How much does it cost to create a job?
Foolish Answer:
The New Deal cost over £5bn, and has created 50,000 jobs which otherwise wouldn’t exist. That means each job created cost the taxpayer £100,000.

Naive Question: If labour-saving technology is getting better and cheaper, why are corporate employees working longer hours?
Foolish Answer:
Because they’re slaves.

Naive Question: Is it true that hard work never hurt anybody?
Foolish Answer: According to a government report (Mental Health & Stress in the Workplace), working over 48hrs per week doubles the risk of coronary heart disease.

Naive Question: Why do successful business people want less regulation and smaller government?
Foolish Answer: Ironically, big business depends on a complex legal framework and a powerful state apparatus (to enforce the laws under which businesses and lawyers prosper). Business people don’t really want less regulation and smaller government – they just want less state interference in their own activities. They’re quite happy to see everybody else (particularly the less well off) be regulated and controlled. Many business people love the US system, where the government is powerful enough to fill the prisons with millions of relatively harmless people who are then available to corporations as cheap, captive labour.

Naive Question: Is unemployment high or low at the moment?
Foolish Answer: When governments talk about their performance in managing the economy, unemployment is “low”. But when they talk of “cracking down on dependency culture” or “getting tough on the workshy”, unemployment is “high”.

Naive Question: Why is welfare spending so high?
Foolish Answer:
The total yearly UK welfare budget is £99bn. Roughly half of that goes on pensions. The amount spent on pensions is increasing because the population is getting older. Only £5bn is spent annually on unemployment benefits. The amount spent on unemployment decreased by £1bn over the last year. As a cost comparison, bear in mind that a new British-US fighter plane has a development price-tag of £250bn.

Naive Question: Why should people get pensions?
Foolish Answer: The cost of state pensions is huge, yet there is widespread poverty amongst old people. Many elderly people are able-bodied, so let’s put them to work. There’s no excuse for laziness and dependence – if they can use a phone or walk a dog, they can take jobs in telesales or supermarket trolley shepherding.

Naive Question: Who really wants strong leaders?
Foolish Answer: Only sexually repressed people want strong leaders (according to psychologists).