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The Plain Truth – May 1981
The Plain Truth – May 1981
The Role Of Television In The Decline Of U.S. Prestige

from Herbert W. Armstrong

WE NEED to realize that when American television programs are shown in other countries – as they are, all over the world – the people in those countries often take them as a factual representation of what life is like in the United States.

American television shows and movies are not intended to be documentaries made for the purpose of showing other peoples around the world what life is like in the U.S. Quite the contrary! They are made primarily for the United States audience, and purely for ENTERTAINMENT. For this purpose they picture the unusual, the UNcommon, the daring, the shocking, the imaginary.

But we ought to realize that millions in other countries do mistake these pictures and programs as self-portrayals of what life is like in America!

If the television industry is going to produce that kind of show, it would seem those responsible ought to have sufficient sense of responsibility to prevent this damage to the American image abroad.

The Profit Motive

But of course men in commercial enterprises are in those enterprises for one purpose – PROFITS. They are much more concerned about making profits than having a sense of patriotism in respect to the American public image.

And that is a major root of problems and of evils in the world today.

I repeat again and again – there are just two broad overall ways, or principles of life. The one I call the “GET,” the other the “GIVE”, way. Humanity lives on the self-centered principle – the way of greed, lust, desire to acquire, accumulate, and, as well, the way of UNconcern for the good and welfare of others – the way of jealousy, envy, hatred.

The principle of “GIVE” is the way of outgoing concern for the good and welfare of others equal to self-concern. It is the way of serving, helping, sharing – of cooperation, of consideration, patience, kindness.

In United States television, the cost of production and broadcasting is derived from the “commercials” – the advertising. Rates are based on viewer-ratings at the various hours of day or night – the number of viewers tuned in. The competition for high ratings is furious. Millions upon million of dollars are involved. The concern is not for what viewers ought to see, but for what the largest number will prefer to see.

And television experience shows that the public wants, not what is good for it, but what will entertain. The American TV diet would not be filled with violence, murder, crime, illicit sex, if the viewing public did not prefer that to a diet of education, instruction, useful information. The profit motive rules.

Television: The Violent Medium

Give the general public a CHOICE between what it ought to have for its own GOOD, on the one hand, and on the other, entertainment depicting evil – strife, violence, illicit sex – and the public will most often choose that which harms, tears down, injures and degenerates, every time. Not every individual, of course – but the general public as a whole.

The very nature that is in humans tends to relax, let down, take the course of least resistance, escape responsibility and degenerate.

The world lives on the “GET” motive. The world wants idleness, ease and ENTERTAINMENT. The commercial and industrial interests who sponsor and pay for television programming and broadcasting want the largest mass audience for their money. It’s a matter of supply and demand – and the public demands programs that are exciting, shocking, daring – and this means violence and illicit sex.

American television programs are tailored to what the public prefers to view. And the public does not find normal American living that exciting. Therefore the programs are not self-portrayals of what ordinary routine American life is like. It has to be different to be exciting and entertaining, The mass audience wants to be taken into a different and imaginary world of excitement and interest – to escape from the realities of its own humdrum routine life.

So foreign audiences do not see, in these programs, ordinary working men and women at their regular routine jobs.

Now we might ask, since marketing these programs in other countries creates a very distorted conception of what day-to-day American life is like – since they create such a hostile American image, WHY send them to other countries? Simply because they pay a profit – and the sellers are more interested in “GETTING” the profits than in creating a favorable American image abroad!

The “Get” Motive

Humanity has chosen the “GET” way of life. It has brought the world all its countless evils. The world goes on suffering the evils, but refuses to recognize the CAUSE. The “GET” motive has given America economic affluence, a higher living standard of material goods. This has failed to bring her people real happiness. It also has contributed to American unpopularity, prejudice, hostility. Americans are not generally loved around the world.

The “GET” way really does not pay the biggest dividends in the long run. And that’s what’s wrong with the world today – THE WHOLE WORLD! That’s the CAUSE of world problems, national domestic problems, family and individual problems.

Meanwhile we of The Plain Truth – of Ambassador College and the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation – are showing the millions, WORLDWIDE, the CAUSE of peace, happiness and abundant well-being. We do what we can do to give a balanced picture of America and Americans – and of all countries and peoples. We are making FRIENDS in many important high places.

We can’t jam it down people’s throats. We can’t prevent people, groups and nations from going the way that CAUSES evils. But here and there, more and more individuals are coming to see the truth. And each year additional THOUSANDS are changing their lives – as the MILLIONS hear.

Those of us who travel around the world – who have meetings with heads of state and world leaders – find that when they really see, and get to KNOW us as Americans, they like us – even to the point of real affection!

Many are coming to recognize that this worldwide educational program for all people at all levels is doing as much or more for WORLD PEACE than any program, operation, government, society or movement on earth: We are pointing THE WAY to world peace. It can come from no other way.