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It's Not My Fault!

by Neena Louise
I've said it before and I'll say it again: television does not cause social decline. Cartoons, fictitious stories and politically-incorrect commercials have no bearing on people's behavior. However, I think there's one exception to my previously unshakable stance: the "it's not my fault" way of thinking that is being reinforced by so many television shows. This television-driven attitude is far more destructive than depictions of violence could ever be, because it is a lot easier to simply blame someone else for your irresponsibility than it is be to become uncharacteristically violent.

Think about any news show - whether it's the nightly news, a tabloid program, or a primetime news show - and try to recall a single episode in which the "it's not my fault" attitude isn't reinforced: It's not my fault I got drunk and killed someone (it's the bar-owner's fault); it's not my fault I'm violent (my mother didn't love me); it's not my fault I can't earn a living (I was born into poverty); it's not my fault I have a drug problem (it's an illness); it's not my fault I have tobacco-related health problems (it's the tobacco company's fault)...and on and on. The truly frightening part is that, with the constant barrage of such newscasting, people are becoming convinced that they are not responsible for the consequences of any of their choices, leading them into a misguided sense of entitlement.

I was watching an episode of Inside Edition and found myself doing the old "oh pu-leeze" eye-rolling that accompanies much of my television viewing these days. Even though I would hardly call Inside Edition's segments "deep", the show had a piece on riverboat casinos and their policy of unlimited free alcoholic drinks. The segment depicted how many of the casinos' drunken patrons left the casinos, got into their cars, crashed and killed either themselves or others. It then went on to hold the casinos responsible and to question their (legal) free drink policy, yet barely made mention of the irresponsible patrons that actually drank the drinks and drove the cars and did the killings. This is just one small example of television's twisted perspective on responsibility. Why hold yourself responsible when you can blame someone else? You're allowed - it says so on TV!

The so-called "tobacco war" is equally galling (in fact, more so). People start to smoke, fully and completely aware of the health risks related to tobacco use. They ignore the warnings and continue to smoke, eventually becoming addicted. Then they develop tobacco-related health problems and what do they do? They blame the tobacco companies! They insist that a cartoon camel lured them into smoking, or that slick ads and billboards portraying beautiful people "glamorized" smoking and forced them into nicotine addiction. Oh, pu-leeze! Of all the smokers I know, not ONE was enticed to smoke because of the actions of a tobacco company. They started to smoke, either thinking it would make them look "cool", or to irritate their parents. The media, however, deemed tobacco companies evil and gloated over every single action brought against a tobacco company, by every idiot who didn't have enough sense to leave tobacco alone. Tobacco companies had nothing to do with it, yet the media (and, consequently, the government) have held tobacco companies so completely responsible that society now blames them, too.

Television defends itself by insisting it is trying to "protect" you by reporting stories with this angle. I think not. You would have to be pretty stupid not to know driving drunk could have dire consequences or that chain-smoking could kill you. I hardly think anyone needs exploitive news segments to tell them these things. Besides: make a safer cigarette and I'll smoke twice as much; make a safer car and I'll drive twice as recklessly; make a weaker drink and I'll drink twice as much... You can't protect people from themselves - they have to do that on their own, and perpetuating an attitude that so many are so eager to adopt isn't protecting anyone from anything.

Today's news television programming actually glorifies the "it's not my fault" way of thinking with their exploitive "isn't it a crying shame", supposedly heart-wrenching pieces on one tragedy or another. This mind-set is already starting to creep into primetime dramas and sitcoms and it must stop. People need to learn to take responsibility for themselves and stop blaming everyone else. Everyone has a choice about what behaviors they are going to adopt and how they are going to live their lives. While television won't make these choices for them, it is becoming dangerously close to allowing irresponsible and idiotic (sometimes criminal) actions to be accepted. It's not MY fault, after all. It's yours. 
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