A number of people have asked me how I can reconcile my criticism of HGTV’s decision to fire the Benham brothers with my general political bent. “But you like the market,” they have argued. “And this just the market working. HGTV did what it thought best for its bottom line.”
I do like the market, yes. I like HGTV, too. But my criticism isn’t aimed at HGTV or the market, both of which are merely tools. It’s aimed the culture that informs them. Yes, questions such as this should be an issue left to markets and not to the state or to me. Yes, HGTV has to respond to market forces – and it should. No, it should not be illegal for people who say unpopular or unpleasant things to lose their entertainment contracts. But that these things are all true does not mean that one has to like how the market behaves in every instance. Which is to say: I’m not criticizing HGTV for their decision; I’m lamenting that the audience made their decision necessary.
I want television to be run by private companies that are responsive to public opinion. But does this mean I have to like that public opinion? Hardly. If it did, I’d never be able to criticize Real Housewives of New Jersey or Honey Boo Boo or MSNBC, nor the forces that make them possible. If it did, any suggestion that not all programming is smart and thoughtful would have to be subordinated to the witless chant, “but the company is just responding to its audience.” And, if it did, I would be required to be fine with the public’s apparently being so intolerant of the private views of its entertainers that anyone who steps out of line must be quickly removed from their sight.
Well, I’m not fine with that. I think it’s bloody.