Vital Signs

The Way It Was?

The Ethics of Docudrama

"The nation must be grateful that millions of Americans . . . are being taught night after night lessons that may help them live more amicably with their fellow citizens."

That's Walter Goodman, writing in the New York Times. "Goaded by minority groups," he says, "commercial television has become a leader in the movement to get Americans to accept other Americans . . . the biggest successes in the continuing push-and-shove have been won by minority groups bent on converting negative images into positive images."

Walter Goodman, as it happens, is a perceptive and generally fair-minded TV critic, and he's not the kind of guy to delude himself, or us: "The point, pardon the word, is propaganda—mild, benign, not force-fed by the state, but propaganda all the same." But he's not complaining either: "That is as it must be."

Must it?

How grateful should we be that we are being force-fed by an entertainment establishment that keeps shoveling out the agitprop? That the aim is ostensibly benign—tolerance, brotherhood—doesn't put the question to rest.

The Goodman quotes are actually from a piece he wrote a couple of years ago. But they apply a fortiori today. when every other sitcom and fictional drama carries a social message, usually stacking the deck in favor of the latest elitist fashions in right thinking.


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