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Battling the forces of the in-crowd is overwelming and invigorating

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Hollywood, the MSM and the Junior High Cafeteria

Battling the forces of the in-crowd is overwelming and invigorating

One of the most difficult things about being a parent is hearing my mother’s words come out of my mouth.  As I try to navigate junior high,  I catch myself repeating her advice, “Who cares what people think of you!  Don’t spend your time worrying about being cool or hip.  Be a kind person.  Be responsible and respectful.  Be proud of who you are and to hell with the pettiness of others.  Be unique and stand up for what you believe in.”

I, like an adolescent in the cafeteria, don’t enjoy being teased and taunted and bullied.  It becomes draining and tiring and disheartening. One of the intended effects of bullying is to squash individuality and make it uncomfortable to question group-think.  Falling in line is easier. Don’t question the populars.  Keep your head down, your eyes lowered and keep your opinions, unless approved by the self-proclaimed populars, to yourself.

Hollywood and the mainstream media [MSM] have managed to prolong the horror of adolescence by making the pop culture arena a giant junior high cafeteria.  If you aren’t in with the in-crowd, you will be mocked, ridiculed, called names, jeered at and you WILL sit at the loser table.  You will learn to hold your tongue, tow the party line or risk being vilified. The bully pulpits of the movie screen, the television screen and the radio are used to do just that…bully. 

I have come to expect and accept Rosie O’Donnell and her ilk’s contempt and scorn.  I try to find solace in knowing they do not count me among their crowd.  If one is truly judged by the company one keeps, I’ll be glad to forgo the mean girls.

The MSM, always a participant in the bullying (albeit in more subtle ways before the advent of cable news and the internet) now embraces the meangirls philosophy.  No longer content to report on the news or even pretend to be neutral, they believe it is their duty to interpret and even make the news. The average newly minted journalism grad unabashedly proclaims they chose journalism so they can, “change the world”.  Shouldn’t they be saying, “I want to report on the events of the world.” 

I am not sure when I started to see my uncles in the MSM and their cohorts in Hollywood as people…people with experiences, value systems and personal opinions…people with a vice-like grip on powerful platforms.  Of course there are other news and entertainment options: Rush,  Bill Buckley, websites and more.  But these are “alternative” sources and outside accepted avenues for molding opinions.  The populars don’t endorse them.  They are not the “name brands” that suggest hip and cool.

I thought of Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather as benign, kindly uncles.  It never occurred to me to question their personal beliefs or biases.  It never occurred to me to think about their story choices or wonder how their views colored their reporting. They were nice, photogenic, kindly looking chaps.  They were just reading the news. 

Even with the alternative news sources I and my children are lucky enough to have, turning my back on the uncles was not easy.  They were familiar and comfortable.  We have been through a lot together;  scandal, tragedy, joy and wonder. There were right there during some of my most vivid memories.  We faced the shooting of a President and the loss of a space shuttle together.  We rejoiced together when the Olympic Hockey Team’s beat Russia and later won the gold.  We have a history.

The last straw came during ABC coverage of Christmas at the White House a few years ago.  The segment closed with Laura Bush remarking that entertaining at the White House is much like entertaining in any home.  You make sure the dishes are clean, the house is in order and guests are comfortable. 

Uncle Peter sneered with distain, “Did she reallllllly just say that?”   Translation: “Laura Bush is an unsophisticated hick from Texas who is too pedestrian to understand, or appreciate, the grandeur of the White House.  She, and by extension her husband and their supporters, are too déclassé to be believed and worthy only of the contempt of sophisticated folks in the MSM and Hollywood.  If you can’t grasp that, you are an unsophisticated peasant too…go sit at the geek table.  You are a loser.  You are not in with the in-crowd.”

The utter meanness and contempt were breathtaking and the toxicity overpowering. My uncles and their friends in Hollywood are just not nice people.  

I still react to the bullying of junior high delivered via the television, radio and movie screen.  I still chafe when I am mocked and taunted by the likes of Sean Penn and Dan Rather and yet I can not expect my children to follow my advice on the pettiness of junior high if I am not eating my own dog food.  I have to let go of toxic people even when it is family.  Uncle Peter, Dan and Tom and friends in the MSM, I have taken you off the Christmas card list.  And Hollywood?  You are dead to me.

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Ms. O'Malley is a freelance writer from the New York City area and has been a non-profit fundraiser for 15 years. Write her at katiehastingsomalley@yahoo.com

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