Saturday, October 3, 2009

Letterman's Moral Obligation?

Yesterday while driving to work I briefly tuned in to a local news radio station to check on traffic. Too early to find out why motorists on the 210 east were sitting motionless with our engines running, I heard, instead, the latest Letterman drama. Unable to simply report recent events, the station interviewed people at some early morning coffee shop thing. Really. If I weren't curious about why I was going nowhere, I would have switched back to NPR or at least the Stephanie Miller talk show. Here's what I heard before I really did switch stations without ever knowing why traffic once stopped completely suddenly started moving again.
"David Letterman," said the outraged man, "has a moral obligation to his audience."
A moral obligation?
I thought he had a contractual obligation to entertain. Moral obligation? I think not. Legal obligation? Yes, definitely, but no more so than do all of us. Follow the law or risk arrest or fines or other unpleasant stuff. Moral obligation? Get serious. Which, of course, Letterman can't do because he's paid to crack jokes.
Here's what I think. The lines between entertainment and politics have become blurred to the extent that we actually believe actors can become competent state, national, and world leaders and political leaders should be constantly and consistently entertaining. At this point do the people in coffee shops being interviewed by radio staff even know the meaning of 'moral obligation'. If we expect our entertainers to be morally responsible, we must first decide whose morality runs the show. Should we expect basic morality from our political leaders? That's also a slippery slope because morality is not constitutionally defined.
So, coffee shop guy, have another cup of Joe and enjoy the show. After all, what could be more entertaining than a professional comic dealing up front and center with a blackmailer?
Now that's funny.

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