Television’s humanity

Television has been slammed for gearing its news bulletins and entertainment programs to the service of high ratings that are unfortunately based on public sentiment rather than cool judgment. It has been accused of everything, from causing mental and physical damage, to cultivating idleness and dullness, and even to eroding critical thinking. The rise of television as a mass medium was from the start met as a threat to the press – which has ever since been one of its fiercest critics. So we now feel obliged to admit that television is the only medium that could prompt such a global outburst of emotion and humanity that in turn produced the spectacular relief donations to aid those stricken by the tsunamis. None of the famous writers or journalists could ever have aroused the global response generated by television images of the calamity-stricken countries. Television’s undisputed superiority over the written word was not a matter of better preparation, organization, technical capability or skill. The most shocking moments were captured on amateur videos by people who intended to film happy family holidays. Hence we get images without maudlin descriptions; simply cries of shock and horror. Shaky images that were abruptly cut off as the waves swept people away. The images of the disaster do not feel strange or distant. Our concern over a small minority of fellow Greeks among the hundreds of thousands of fellow humans that were found half-buried in the mud was not the product of some absurd nationalism. Nor was our fear that Greece could be hit by a similar catastrophe inexplicable. If we reacted in that way, it was because we realized that in the face of such disaster, we are all helpless. It was the power of television that transformed us from mere spectators to people sharing the pain of others.