Comment, Comics and the Contrary.
Channel 4 will soon enter a new competitor into the ‘reality’ TV arena. Space Cadets
. What can I say? Only that, given that the ‘candidates’ for the show were systematically selected for their gullibility and lack of knowledge and then exposed to a training course that deliberately filled the gaps in these people’s knowledge with lies, the claim that this show will be a tremendous hoax is pretty weak. Indeed, it is not a hoax at all. A hoax fools people who ought to know better – such as people in authority for whom there is a duty to know better – or whole, undifferentiated populations. Space Cadets is not a hoax, rather, it shares more in common with a deception, a con. It is the television equivalent of the people who convince, against any responsible judgement, old ladies that they need to pay thousands of pounds to update their burglar alarms or fuse-boxes. Masters of capitalism, I call these people, with their highly effective exploitation of a niche market, but our law calls them con-men. Why, given the MO of the programme, did the programme makers not select a group of mentally disabled people and play practical jokes on them? Or even give up of the idea of fooling the intellectually weak and simple go for slapstick involving the physically weak? Let us push over old people and obstacles in the path of the blind. Why would the makers of Space Cadets not make these programmes? Because those would be immoral, they might claim. But the truth, given their lack of scruples in exploiting the weak, is that they do not make these programmes because the television audience retains enough sense of decency to reject these. For now. I hope. But we ought to reject Space Cadets, or at least hope that it ends the careers of all the ‘professionals’ involved.
Exploitation entertainment; from X-Factor, a programme that has built its success on exposing and ridiculing the tragic ambitions of people who lack any sense of personal affirmation without celebrity (ensuring its own survival by feeding this pathology) to Space Cadets. From the standard theme of modern porn (no longer hiding the exploitation of women behind plot and glamour, but celebrating it) to Bum Fight
, a successful American programme in which the destitute are paid measly amounts of money in exchange for them engaging in their own mutilation for the entertainment of people higher up the economic order.
In the Communist Manifesto
Marx and Engels wrote that capitalism leaves as the only “nexus between man and man… [that of] naked self-interest… callous ‘cash payment’”. Everything is swept aside leaving only “egotistical calculation”. “[P]ersonal worth [is transformed] into exchange value” and freedoms are replaced by Free Trade. Veiled exploitation is substituted by “naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation”. They predicted (and hoped) that this process would lead to an awakening of revolutionary consciousness. Rather, we buy naked exploitation as entertainment with as easy a conscience as we purchase our sweat-shopped clothes.