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True Confessions

Don't let the title mislead you, this is not going to be a confessional. But have you noticed how many blogs are just that. Where did this spilling your guts to complete strangers come from? How about we come up with a name for it. The Oprah Syndrome!!

Find yourself a large audience and blat out your sob story. Feel the love and sympathy orchestrated for you by a benevolent host (as long as you fit the theme of week: Mothers Reunited With Their Daughters Lost In Tropical Storms Off The Coast Of Maui). That's what everybody has come to expect. We all have an audience. Or even worse we all need an audience. It's fascinating that as our one on one communication skills have deteriorated, our public confessional ability has improved.

Is it the lack of emotional commitment required that makes getting up in front of a studio audience full of strangers, and an potential audience of millions, seemingly so easy for countless bewildered and put upon people? Maybe it's the "fifteen minutes of fame" that so they find so appealing. Whatever it is there seems to be an insatiable appetite for this type of television, from the relative sophistication of Oprah to the white trash circus act of Jerry Springer.

No longer satisfied with the mass media coverage of so called celebrities and their foibles we have now begun to feed upon ourselves. Willing victims bring their lives up on stage to be dissected in the forum of television. Instead of an emperor passing thumbs up or down in judgement we are treated to the even sicker spectacle of a smug interviewer posing the ever provocative "Audience what do you think?" Then the hapless fool, who had to have known what they were getting themselves in for, gets to hear the accumulated wisdom of the couch potato philosophers. Accompanying chorus of Right Ons, Noes, rain down on the stage to the point where I half expect to hear Praise the Lord so much like a revival meeting has it begun to sound.

Damn, that's what they are. It just hit me as I was writing, they are revival meetings. Public confessionals orchestrated by a charismatic leader, the audience singing out inspirational phrases, and the atoner welcomed back into the embrace of their loving society. These shows allow people to "witness" their beliefs and morals. To stand up and be counted in front of their fellows and pass judgement on those who dare deviate, or to offer guidance to the lost.

They are in a hallowed space after all, the place where their beliefs and thoughts are shaped and orchestrated, a T.V. Studio. Is it any wonder that these shows are just an extension of what we watch and call fiction? They may not look as glamorous as the soap operas they watch in the afternoon, but goddamn it their lives are just as important and are governed by the same laws. So in this new court of Solomon they air their petty grievances, complain about the emptiness they feel, and are reunited with somebody they abandoned thirty years ago.

I was wondering why people used blogs and web sites as confessionals, where they reveal their innermost secrets for the titillation of total strangers. The answer is that they are just a natural extension of what's been happening on talk television every day now for years. The desire to be considered special, to obtain a tiny bit of that celebrity that we are told makes us worthwhile, is so strong that people lose any sense of personal pride. The Romans might have enjoyed watching people being fed to lions or fighting each other to the death, but I seriously question which circus is the more barbaric.

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