Suicide, Homicide, Bad Manners and Jerry Springer
Jerry Springer says his show is “stupid” and has “no redeeming social value”. It is the most honest observation I've heard to date from the mouth of Jerry Springer.
The Jerry Springer Show had a significant effect on how many Australians viewed America and Americans. From my own experience, the general reaction I received when mentioning a planned trip to the US changed from "I'd love to go to America" to "I'd hate to go to America, the people there are crazy. Have you seen the Jerry Springer Show?"
In the United Kingdom, a British Broadcasting Standards report in 1999 said that parents feared Jerry Springer's show and others like it were damaging youngsters and causing them to grow up with a distorted view of the world.
Jerry Springer is certainly not the first person to call his program 'stupid' or to suggest his program has no redeeming social value, and yet his show gained sufficient following to result in over 20 series being produced and aired.
When Jerry Springer enters the studio, he gets a standing ovation. Average Americans rise to their feet to greet him as though he is some kind of hero.
Springer says his show is stupid ...
At the very least, the Jerry Springer Show is guilty of encouraging extremely bad manners.
While Springer is always quick to present himself as calm, rational and the voice of reason, for decades he has manipulated individual Americans and their friends, families and often even those who considered the centre of attention to be the love of their lives, into the most embarrassing and confrontational situations.
And then, knowing millions of people would be watching every move, Springer encouraged them to behave badly towards each other.
Springer acknowledges that if the same people had appeared on the Oprah show, they'd be likely to remain seated in their chairs, with none of the extreme reaction that is generated on his program.
In the southern hemisphere, it is relatively easy to distance ourselves from such bad behavior. We can consider violent outbursts and bad manners to be distinctly American, and tell our children that we don't behave so rudely in our country.
Millions of Americans, however, have been exposed to Jerry Springer or had encounters with others who are regular watchers of his show, and there must be a cultural backlash.
Is it, as Jerry Springer boasts, "the destruction of Western civilization"?
At first glance that claim seems typical of Springer's approach to everything ... exaggerate and inflame the issue ... but there might be an ounce of truth in his statement.
A man finds out his girlfriend is a man. That could, I imagine, be pretty soul destroying.
To be confronted with the knowledge that the woman you've fallen in love with is not a woman at all, and the future you'd planned with your girlfriend becoming your wife and pregnant some day could never be a reality, would be a shock for any man. I expect it would be a time for serious self-reflection.
But to be given that news and have your heart broken on a prime-time television program that beams into homes across America and around the world, is a tragedy. Your first reaction is not only on public view but, even worse, in this age of developing technology it is also permanently available on the internet and youtube videos.
I would consider The Jerry Springer Show responsible for contributing to the suicide of any former guest after an episode of total humiliation. Imagine having to go home after the show is recorded, knowing that your parents and your co-workers and your neighbors and the people who work in your local stores may all be aware of your personal trauma.
While I appreciate the right of a man to be a transsexual and be treated with respect, I also respect the right of any person to keep the details of their private life behind closed doors.
I have always wondered why anyone would agree to participate in the Jerry Springer Show. You never see a good news story there. Is there some kind of mistaken belief that their invitation to appear on the show is so they can receive a romantic proposal from their partner?
But Jerry Springer and his team know full well what the outcome of any appearance on their show will be. What do they say to people when they invite them to come on the show to hear news from someone they've trusted?
It is hard to imagine anyone with a conscience working for Jerry Springer.
The alternative to fighting ...
Violence has long been a key ingredient in the Jerry Springer Show. If Jerry Springer and the producers consider it necessary to hire a hefty team of security bouncers to keep the show's guests from killing each other on camera, what do they expect will happen once the participants leave the studio?
Are we to assume that away from the lights and cameras, people will shake hands and go their separate ways? Hard to imagine.
By screening the confrontation and violent exchanges, it seems more likely that friends and family who view the episode on the Jerry Springer Show will become similarly inflamed and the whole issue could flare into physical attacks without the intervention of Jerry Springer's security team.
How many homicide detectives hear mention of Jerry Springer's name during their investigations? Perhaps some day a student will write a thesis on the continuing relationships of people who appeared together on the Jerry Springer Show.
It would be too much to hope that Jerry Springer himself might one day instruct his team to work the phones and find out exactly what the fall-out is when the lights and cameras dim.
Nancy Campbell-Panitz was murdered by her ex-husband after they both participated in an episode of the Jerry Springer Show. Nancy's children tried to take legal action against Springer and others responsible for airing the program, but dropped their charges as part of a negotiated deal when the show launched their own claim against Ms Campbell-Panitz's estate.
I would imagine taking legal action against the Jerry Springer Show would be a bit like trying to tackle an insurance company or any other corporate giant. If you don't have the money to keep paying your own legal team for every appearance in court while an insurance company seeks delays and more and more court dates that incur expenses, you might as well give up.
The influence of the Jerry Springer Show on children
The opening of the Jerry Springer Show contains a warning to parents that the program may not be suitable for children. May not? When was the last time a Jerry Springer Show episode was suitable for children? Has there been one, ever?
I find it hard to imagine that any responsible parent would let their child watch the Jerry Springer Show. However there are undoubtedly parents who don't stop their children from watching, particularly if they are not prepared to change the channel or turn the television off. And many youngsters have a tv in the bedroom, with parents not monitoring the shows they choose to watch.
What was the reaction of Americans when two teenage boys in Florida assaulted their eight-year-old half-sister in 1999, claiming they got the idea from a Jerry Springer episode on incest?
What does any adult think when they see shouting and swearing, hair-pulling, fist fights, and chairs used as battering rams? And what kind of example could that possibly be for any child or young adult?
The influence of Jerry Springer on society
Bad manners and bad behavior should surely not be considered appropriate when dealing with life-changing social issues. Is there no room for any kind of attempt at conflict resolution? Is there no social conscience among the team at the Jerry Springer Show?
Now that Jerry Springer has claimed, "I am the father of the destruction of Western civilization", I would like to think that he might try to make amends and take a different approach.
Perhaps ... "The topics are controversial enough and will attract a following. Let's try something brave and different, and see if we can help people come to terms with these issues without trying to kill each other."
That would be a start.