American TV: entertaining but of no relevance to us

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Ninety-eight percent  of American TV, as you know, is rubbish. The remaining 2% can be very good, but you might have to do a bit of digging to find it.

One TV show that must be in the top 5% is called United Shades of America. It’s on CNN and is presented by a very big, very black, very funny comedian called W Kamau Bell. In it, he explores matters you might not expect. Like how the police treat black people. So he goes on patrol with a black policeman, who explains the need for law and order, and then hands him over to his white colleague for further foot patrol. “I’ve never felt so good, being handed over from one cop to another” Bell tells the camera.

He tries out virtual reality training for cops, where they’re called on to react to potentially lethal situations. Bell ends up “killing” one of the (black) attackers in the simulation. “The cops liked me after” he says in an aside. “They were clearly surprised I hadn’t shot everybody”. He notes that the virtual reality training appears to have scenarios for dealing with black guys in all sorts of violent situations. “Only I don’t see no scenario for cops dealing with a black guy who’s minding his own business”.

On the beat he sees cops stop and exchange small talk with black people in a rundown neighbourhood. That’s nice, he reckons, but it’ll take maybe three hundred years before the approach solves the police-African-American problem. And when he talks to an old NAACP guy, he’s reminded that community policing doesn’t work too well if the community policeman doesn’t live in the community.

Interesting, but unfortunately no lessons for policing here.

Having dealt with the touchy subject of how the police deal with black minorities, Bell tackles the even touchier subject of how the Ku Klux Klan deals with black minorities. So he checks out a town called Camden in New Jersey, where practically all of the population are white – maybe something to do with the KKK having a headquarters there. He meets a KKK wizard in full white robe and hood – in the dark on a lonely road. “We are pro-white 100%. We just want other races to leave us alone” the guy in the white hood with the muffly voice tells him. At a cross burning he’s told “In the Bible, God tells us not to mingle our seed with the beast of the field. We follow the teachings of the Lord.”

In Harrison, Arkansas, he meets a Knight of the KKK – which, Bell notes, makes him a KKKK. He gets invited to Pastor Thomas Robb’s compound, where he meets former neo-Nazi Billy Roper, who’s busy teaching white youth about things like sending black people back to Africa. When Bell observes that his daughter couldn’t play in this all-white playground supervised by Billy, Billy comes right back: “My daughter wouldn’t be safe playing in black play-grounds”

Bell’s mixture of comedy with up-close investigation makes Louis Theroux seem leaden-footed.

So let’s see then: policing and minorities, and blind bigotry with a dash of fundamentalist religion. I thought for a minute there might be a parallel with here but nah – unique and of no relevance to our happy society. I don’t know why I went to the bother of writing this blog about it.

24 Responses to American TV: entertaining but of no relevance to us

  1. jessica May 30, 2016 at 8:34 am #

    I am surprised the KKK still exist, I would hope there aren’t too many Camdens remaining.

    I imagine the orange order will go the same way, gradually reducing in numbers but persisting with a reluctance among unionism to let go of their hate while they see it as part of their culture, their fundamental religious right and an expression of their identity.

    I imagine the KKK feel exactly the same way.

  2. paddykool May 30, 2016 at 8:52 am #

    Well, Jude …it could be that many of those lovely KKK characters’ ancestors had their origins not too far from us here in Norneverland. It’s that same old gene -pool which produced the Hillbilly Nation of bootleggers, neo-nazis, rooting -tooting ,gun lovin’. black-hatin’ religious fundamentalist luvvies with the bible in one hand and a fod of bullshit in the other…..Then there was the slavery and the importation en masse of Africans to work as animals in the fields and the slaughter of the Native Americans by the Seventh Cavalry before that …much of it to the strains of that good old Irish “Garryowen”.. I reckon we exported a lot of that devilment to America and just spread it out on a bigger scale.

    • Ryan May 30, 2016 at 9:15 pm #

      Well Paddy its historical fact that the South was farmed mostly by Ulster Scots or Scotch Irish as they came to call themselves. In fact, when these Protestant farmers turned up in America in the 1700’s they only called themselves Irish until the Irish Catholic floods came in in the 1800’s. After that they called themselves Scotch Irish to distance themselves from the Irish Catholics. Of course discrimination and sectarianism was promoted en-mass by the Irish Protestants towards the Irish Catholics in the USA, even Orange parades were used (oh yes, it isn’t just unique to Ireland) where many a riot broke out in New York City and led to many deaths on both sides. Many forget that groups like the KKK were originally founded not to target black people but Catholics, and not just Irish Catholics but Polish, German and Italian Catholics too.

      Thankfully much of this is forgotten in the USA of today and the sectarianism has died out to be replaced by racism. American Protestants of Irish heritage mostly refer to themselves as Irish Americans but a small number (around 4 million, according to the source I checked, compared to 40 million Irish Americans) still refer to themselves as Scotch Irish Americans.

      Why did the sectarianism die out? That’s debatable but its my belief that Catholics rose to significant areas of power in the USA and growth in numbers that they couldn’t be challenged, hence peace between American Protestant and Catholic developed. It reminds me of a line in Susan McKay’s “Northern Protestants”: UDA men go to Derry and ask why is it so peaceful here? and someone replies “Because it has a Catholic majority”. That rises many questions for Unionists and Protestants…..

  3. Pointis May 30, 2016 at 9:52 am #

    I could understand 98% of that but the other 5% left me feeling confused!

  4. Iolar May 30, 2016 at 10:06 am #

    How about an alternative question? How many hours are spent watching rubbish? Someone said he found TV educational, when someone switches the set on, he goes to another room to read a book.

    People are being bombarded with advertisements and junk mail concerning satellite television and how to record and catch up on missed programmes. Employers are now being bombarded with demands to introduce flexible working hours to facilitate football matches. Suggestions are being made to provide TV viewing facilities in the workplace. In the interests of equality perhaps similar arrangements ought to be made to facilitate events such as Wimbledon or for racing fixtures. Perhaps not, that might lead to the demand for crèches in the workplace and that would not be cricket.

  5. Perkin Warbeck May 30, 2016 at 11:11 am #

    Your take on Tellyland on the other side of the broad Atlantical ocean, Esteemed Blogmeister, revived thoughts on the recent hooh-hah over here about the use of the N-word.

    And for two reasons recalled an incident which occurred about twenty five years ago on RTE.

    Not just any incident, mind, in the shame-freighted history of our frightful national (so-called) station, but one of THE milestone incidents. Right up there with the No-hand Job which the unknighted Gay Bryne made of the first appearance of the leader of Nationalist Ireland on the Loot, Loot Show.

    That was the occasion when a newly-released Nelson Mandela was interrogated, oops, interviewed by a no-nonsense Olivia O’Leary. Obviously under the impression she was confronted by a Shinner with a tan the Big Double-O proceeded to give a mistress-class in the Donnybrook Dublin 4 style of lane-hopping, agenda-driven cross-examination.

    With saintly forbearance, and not a little bemusement, eventually even the Big N grew weary of all the O’Leary butting-in and the cutting-short, and more in weariness than anger, raised a large right hand and pleaded:

    -Madame, you will, please, for once, if you don’t mind, allow me to answer a question.

    The effect was salutary: think mosquito (pesky), think Desperate Dan (with natural insect-repellent in hand).

    The fact that the recent user of the N-word was invited to be part of the Guard of Honour prior to the funeral of the Big-N in the Eastern Cape Province in 2013 may well have got a mench on RTE during the recent, erm, donnybrook , but offhand one cannot recall it.

    And while Olivia O’Leary was prompted to tuck in her ego where the nuns had endlessly taught her to, this turned out , alas, to be but a temporary measure. Twenty five years on The Big Double-O is still dancing the World’s Gone Crazy Cotillion:

    -the lady is not only still dancing alone, but the sidewoman still wants to be the frontperson.

    She was recently ullagowning on RTE about her days in Belfast during the dark nights of the erm, Black 1970s, when, seemingly, the biggest danger she faced were not the bombs, the bullets or the batons but was (sob) rather the pressure of her peers (all male) in the Europa bar, after hours, to ‘hold her hour and have another’.

    Which ullagowning was picked by the headphoney coven of co-colleenee in the communications industry. Who. Are. Always. There. For. Each. Other.

    -Ochone, ochone agus ochone-oh !

    These times, Esteemed Blogmeister, one restricts one’s exposure to US Television to the CNN International News Channel. Where, gender rather than racial bias, would appear to be norm (as in Norma rather than Norman).

    One watches it as one watches the aftermath of a roadsmash . Where ballsy broadcasters with Surnames like Amanpour and Anderson dominate and direct traffic – that would be, Catherine and Becky, respectively.

    And that’s just to stick with the A’s.

    Where one is amazed to discover there is the occasional N-word STILL reporting on sports – the Non-female person.

    One only sticks, gobsmacked, long enough on the sidewalk with the CNN channel until the N-word is heard – the Nee-naw, the Nee-naw, the Nee-naw. That is the equivalent of announcing the arrival of the A-word : A for Ambulance, A for Ad-break.

    When one’s inner cop instantly asserts itself with a smart whack on the back of one’s poll with a nitestick:

    -Move along, bud, if you know what’s good for ya.

    Put it this way, if one had a choice between falling into the moat of a Central African gorilla’s enclosure and being cross (very) examined in the CNN News Channel studio, one would fancy taking one’s chances with the just a primate of seventeen summers.

  6. ANOTHER JUDE May 30, 2016 at 1:30 pm #

    I think tv is more or less the same everywhere, chat shows featuring bored American actors publicising their latest film, `talent` shows featuring members of the public and central casting judges, one who sneers, one who cries, you get the picture. Reality shows of various quality, from the good to the obscene. Bizarrely, some British people labour under the illusion their produce is somehow superior to the others but that is an illusion. It is the same mix everywhere although a constant stream of gushing programmes about the ruling family dynasty and their sheer magnificence does make some nations` television more like propaganda and brain washing than entertainment. North Korea is nearly as bad.

    • giordanobruno May 30, 2016 at 10:26 pm #

      You sure do watch a lot of British television.

  7. Pointis May 30, 2016 at 3:45 pm #

    I believe TV in the USA exhibits those attributes which we detest most because it is run on a purely Laise Fair commercial basis where no project is undertaken solely for the benefit of society as a whole but for the commercial benefit of corporate shareholders. Despite the lunge to the right of the management of the BBC news Department in London it is an institution that despite that has a fairly good record of producing programming which has in the past challenged the views of the rich and powerful in the interests of the general public.

    In relation to fairness and equality and eradication of bigotry and prejudice this can never be undertaken with any conviction in any state which has as it fundamentals articles which promote any aspect of sectarianism, racism or hereditary privilege. So that Rules out Britain with its sectarian monarchy and Westminister Confession of Faith it also rules out USA with it’s support for some of the most bigoted and sectarian states on earth (Israel and Saudi Arabia being the most prominent).

    I think we need to take our lessons from some the smaller more modest nations whose leaders don’t believe they are better than the rest of the world.

  8. Ryan May 30, 2016 at 8:54 pm #

    ” blind bigotry with a dash of fundamentalist religion”

    Last night I logged onto my twitter and found around 10 tweets from a Loyalist who was a devout admirer of the late Billy Wright. He had sent numerous photos of various Popes and Vatican Masses with text claiming they were evil and so on. When I debated this rather unsavoury individual and asked him to back up his claims, he couldn’t. After closer inspection of his twitter account I learnt that he was a big admirer of the Orange Order. Only one photo struck a cord with me was the photo of John Paul II kissing the Koran. I found that strange…..given the Pope is a Catholic and not a Muslim….I’m a Catholic myself I figured he kissed it because the Old Testament is part of the Koran, if I’m correct…

    “Like how the police treat black people”

    There’s obviously issues with the Police and the Black Community in the USA. Wouldn’t it be better for mostly black police officers patrol Black communities in the USA?

    The Police isn’t the biggest problem facing the black community in the USA. If you look at the statistics, the amount of black people killed by police (sometimes by black officers) is tiny compared to the amount of murders carried out by black men against other black men, especially in gang wars. You also have to realize certain people hijack and use racial tensions to further their own agenda and don’t have the black communities best interests at heart. From low wage families, a life on welfare and low educational attainment, the black community in the USA needs support but only black people themselves can solve those problems. I’m not saying all black people have these issues but a lot do, as statistics show.

    I’m a great believer in giving people the tools and letting them sort themselves out, the Catholic community in the North did it, so can the Black community in the USA.

  9. Beachguy May 31, 2016 at 3:40 am #

    Camden is 48% black and 18% white. It has one of the highest crime rates in the USA.

    It is considered a place to drive past as quickly as possible.

    • Jude Collins May 31, 2016 at 7:44 am #

      What colour are the remainder? And does being black make people violent? Maybe with disappointment that they’re not white??

      • Ryan May 31, 2016 at 2:10 pm #

        I wouldn’t say being black in itself makes people violent Jude but we’re taught now days that everyone is the same regardless of our colour or ethnicity and that we’re all shaped by our environment. That’s false, easily disproved by science, of course environment plays a part but genetics play an even bigger part. All races are different. Our physical appearances are all different, even our anatomy is different in some races.

        I understand this is a “touchy subject” due to political correctness but even the immense power of political correctness cant beat the Truth.

        Take Africa for example. South Africa is regarded as the rape capital of the World, over 40% of all women in South Africa will be raped at least once in their life. The murder rate in South Africa is only challenged by the murder rate in South America. I also read a statistic that said that a girl in Africa is as likely to be raped as she will be taught how to read. There has even been accusations of rape against President Zuma of South Africa. HIV is the highest in the World in South Africa and the rape of babies, yes babies, is wide spread due to the belief that sex with a virgin cures HIV.

        The average IQ of blacks in the USA is 85%, the average IQ in Africa is 75%. The average IQ of East Asians in the USA is 106% whilst the average IQ of White Americans is 103%. Does IQ play a part? I would say definitely. Can IQ be increased? Yes.

        • Jude Collins May 31, 2016 at 2:15 pm #

          Ryan – I don’t think IQ is measured in percentage terms. Besides which, IQ tests have to be the most unreliable measuring instrument known to humanity, since we don’t even know what we mean by intelligence, let alone measure its bulk…

          • Ryan May 31, 2016 at 7:30 pm #

            Sorry Jude, my mistake, I don’t even know why I used the percentage symbol, guess it had to do with me rushing that post on my way out to enjoy the heat and sunshine today whilst my dog was licking my head lol

            I’m not saying IQ is the most important thing and obviously environment does have an impact. Many would disagree with your stance on IQ tests. I bought a book off amazon just recently called “The Bell Curve” by Charles Murray and another called “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature” by Steven Pinker, I haven’t started reading them yet but apparently both argue that IQ of the average citizen has a massive effect on societies.

            Most people think “Intelligence” means “Knowing Stuff”. That’s not my own personal definition, I believe Intelligence is the ability to reason, to problem solve, the ability to learn and understand quickly or at a fast pace, to think through consequences of ones actions, etc.

          • Jude Collins June 1, 2016 at 1:43 pm #

            I’m with you 100% (????) on your notion of intelligence, Ryan. It’s because it’s such a shimmering and exquisite thing that dumb-arses can’t pin it down in numbers. Rough rule of thumb: if you can measure it, it’s low-grade stuff.

  10. Beachguy May 31, 2016 at 9:13 am #

    The comedian , according to your blog, says he was in predominantly white Camden , N J . So it would appear that he brings skin color onto the scene when bringing up Camden.

    So I googled Camden , NJ and got those figures there plus others that are confusing. Perhaps others can make sense of them.

    And I don’t think skin color in itself makes anybody more one thing than another. Do you?

    • Jude Collins May 31, 2016 at 10:27 am #

      In answer to last question, Bg, no, I don’t. I do think it’s important to state that.And of course to trace violence’s links to poverty. I do hope I didn’t get the name of the town wrong – it would be surprising that a guy of such prominence would make claims on CNN about a town, and film there, without all hell breaking loose if he was wrong.The presenter brought skin colour onto the scene because that’s what he does – he’s an African-American who explores situations that affect African-Americans. But I accept your figure – thanks for it.

      • Beachguy May 31, 2016 at 11:45 pm #

        Just google Camden and it is replete with facts and figures about the racial makeup of Camden, NJ. Lots of Latinos also.

        Crime has many reasons but I believe widespread crime has many, many causes and it’s all a bit complicated but , as you point out, poverty certainly is one of the primary ones. And the causes of poverty bring up whole new areas of discussion.

        Regarding driving quickly past Camden it should not be considered a racist statement any more than warning someone not to enter the REX Bar on the 12th of July wearing a Celtic jersey wrapped in the Tricolour.

        And you don’t need to drive quickly through Hicksville . In fact at certain times of day it’s impossible due to the traffic.

        • Jude Collins June 1, 2016 at 1:40 pm #

          Grma for the insights into Hicksville, etc. Maybe it was another CAmbden he visited – or maybe another town entirely. There certainly was considerable emphasis on there being just one black woman there…

  11. Brendan Hall May 31, 2016 at 2:56 pm #

    Seems like the only witty remark in the show was made by Billy Roper. Also, it’s true. A white child wouldn’t be safe on a black playground, and anybody in America who says she would is lying. But you have to be a rare breed to say that out loud in today’s climate of soothing lies and “hate speech” censorship of free speech.

    • Jude Collins May 31, 2016 at 6:28 pm #

      Well, Brendan, actually ol’ Billy sort of said it grim-faced, I thought. Whereas the presenter – whom I’d never come across before – was genuinely funny. You might also want to think why African-Americans might be a bit hostile to white Americans. If you had their history, you might be too… Although I do take your point about PC stifling discussion. For example, I made a tweet comment today which resulted in a mountain of bile being poured over me, with cries of ‘Retract!’ More on that tomorrow, maybe…

  12. Beachguy June 2, 2016 at 1:05 am #

    There seems to be a focus here on black areas in the USA.
    What about ” no go” zones in current day France, Germany etc? The police don’t go in unless absolutely necessary.
    That sounds somewhat familiar. Can anyone help me on this? I’m drawing blanks.

  13. Beachguy June 2, 2016 at 6:01 am #

    Somewhat off topic but somewhat close geographically , 1 June was the 150th anniversary of the Fenian Invasion of Canada from Niagara Falls which is in New York and so was possibly a stop on the recent trip of the blog meister.
    Perhaps he was present at the event itself.