The leader of an international agency was arrested for rape, a movie star who was governor of California revealed he had a love child (his wife is a Kennedy!), a national political figure announced for president and instantly imploded, and a PT blogger claimed that evolution has made African-American women ugly. . . .has our reality been stolen by bad scriptwriters?

 

The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, May 18, 2011. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.

What If Our News Is Being Written by "Law & Order" Scriptwriters?

I.  The International Diplomat Plot

Law & Order, the longest-running cop show on TV (including spin-offs), often has plot lines in which an arrogant S.O.B. murders someone, then flouts the forces of justice who eventually apprehend, try, and convict him.  A typical episode might involve a diplomat who murders a woman, perhaps because she won't sleep with him, while the State Department intervenes to try to pluck the guy out of jail in service of larger American diplomacy goals. 

Meanwhile, on the news, the head of the world's largest international financial agency -- a French national (with an American-born journalist wife -- writers, come on -- have you ever heard of overkill?) was arrested for attempting to rape a hotel maid, then forcing her to give him oral sex.  When someone charged with sexual assault floats a defense that the woman consented, a plea is usually next (as a lawyer, I have defended such cases).  In New York, the range of sentences for this crime is 5-25 years -- a plea usually narrows the range to 5-12.

Are we really going to put the leading candidate for the French presidency in an American prison for 5-12 years?  France is crucial to American international policy. More than half the French population thinks that the New York arrest of their countryman is the result of a plot.  (The basic reason for this view is the implausability of the script -- why would an international figure rape a hotel maid, given that -- well, he could get 5-25 years in an American prison?)

II.  The Movie Star Plot

Sometimes Law & Order detectives have to track down some arrogant, self-absorbed movie star who has murdered his wife.  Meanwhile, out in California, the scriptwriters are doubling down -- they are suggesting that a movie star/ex-Governor committed a less heinous crime -- having sex with a household worker who becomes pregnant at the same time as his wife and then raises the child alongside the star's legitimate child without mentioning same to wife -- a Kennedy who is ALSO a media star! (Note to scriptwriters -- you are REALLY laying it on with a trowel -- please dial back 25-30 degrees.)

III.  The Political Candidate Plot

Then there is the politican who kills someone -- a lover about to blow his cover -- and thinks he can brazen it out -- his you-can't-touch-me attitude exuding from every pore.  But here's what they came up with in real life -- a candidate reeking of self-importance goes on the most important political interview show and cuts down his own party's effort to deal with the major economc-political issue facing the country -- dismissing it as "rIght-wing social engineering."  The script writers then add flourishes like having him confront a voter in Iowa who calls the candidate an embarrassment -- refusing to let go of his hand -- and tells him to get out of the race.

Okay, I can take that angry-voter plot embellishment -- but then to throw in that his much-younger, home-wrecking (but deeply religious) wife has a revolving account with Tiffany's on which they have owed as much as a half-a-million dollars -- writers, have you ever head the phrase "gilding the lily?"

IV.  The Evolutionary Psychologist Plot

Finally, there is the arrogant academic who kills a competitor.  In the real-world plot, a man known for making outlandish but titillating claims about human behavior that correspond to tawdry soap opera plots, for which he fabricates stories involving apes, genes, and evolution to make the tales tableaus chiseled in stone by God, claims that African-American women are unattractive -- since subjects rate their pictures that way (remember when in Brown v. Board of Education children preferring white over black dolls was seen as evidence of the operation of insidious prejudice?) -- without blinking an eye -- as though no one would think there is anything amiss in this narrative. Well, the rest is history -- or was that a TV script?

And all of these things occurred in the time span of roughly one day?  Come on!  (Did you ever see the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show?)

P.S.  The Most Unbelievable Plot of All!

Then they tried to foist off on us that a 7' German guy is dominating the NBA playoffs -- scoring nearly half-a-century last night with unstoppable shots off of one foot leaning backwards -- come on!

That's it -- I'm programming my cable box so that I can only view the Turner Classic Movies channel -- I need to see more realistic stories!