In American society, beyond all the kind words and gentile thoughts, there is one thing that is king: the Almighty Dollar. One is not important enough to be considered at the top of the game unless one is rich. As a result, when a scandal or issue comes up, while hypocrites on all sides will try to degrade their opponent on grounds of morality or sensibility, all that really will matter in the end is how much the culprit in the case can bring in as revenue.
Just minutes ago the news broke that after a series of sexual harrasment allegations, Rupert Murdoch’s American-based media arm 21st Century Fox would not be welcoming top bill Fox News host Bill O’Reilly back onto their network. “After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the Company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel,” read a statement quoted by NPR’s Colin Dwyer. Yet that thorough and careful review only came to a close not after the first sexual harrasment claim was published, nor after the following claims became known. Rather, the people at 21st Century Fox chose to wait until O’Reilly’s show, The O’Reilly Factor, had lost a significant number of its advertising sponsors.
Once again the Almighty and practically Sacred Dollar won out over the health, safety, and well-being of the women who O’Reilly had harrassed. Between the hyprocisy of organisations like 21st Century Fox actually claiming to care about it’s female employees and on-air guests, and the sheer lunacy that something as abstract and impersonal as a decrease in revenue would matter more to executives, I wonder how social change will really be able to come about in a society as plutocratic as ours. Ours is a society wrecked with illness, a society that has begun to rot, for the day when we started to care more about pocketbooks than people was the day when we as a society began to lose our sense of purpose and being. We should be ashamed enough to try and do something about it, to make things better for the next generation to come. Yet as long as the present system benefits a few there will be little reason for them to want to make things fairer and more humane.
There are pleanty of calls for reform, for progressive change coming from many levels of society. Millions of people around the globe marched for women’s rights in January of this year, and this coming Saturday many more will march in defence of science on Earth Day in cities across the country. The people most harmed by the current system, especially those most worried about what the latest President might do now in office, have made their voices heard. But are those voices being heard in the boardrooms and offices of the executives? Consider the cheap shot that Pepsi took to reach out to my generation through that infamous TV ad involving Kendall Jenner and a protest. Apparently if we all buy Pepsi then all of our societal woes will be solved. Perfect! Yet still the socially conscious focus of Pepsi’s protest ad was less so on the protest and more on a self-absorbed celebrity trying to sell a soda that frankly isn’t all that healthy. The focus was entirely on them and not us.
Such wide societal divides are not the least bit healthy, and can often lead to a breakdown of the social institutions intended to keep the peace between varying classes, institutions, ethnicities, races, religions, etc. As this widening gulf continues to grow the level of respect that the parts of society have for each other continues to lessen. Our society’s obsessive focus on material wealth is holding us back, keeping us from reaching our full potential. We see multi-million and billion dollar investments in major league teams yet at the same time budget cuts to our education, healthcare, and infrastructure. The new crowd of super-rich who have populated positions of power in Washington continue to propose policies that not only hurt their greatest supporters amongst the working class, but also cause great harm to the country as a whole.
While Bill O’Reilly is just one person in a country of over 300 million, his disregard for the wellbeing of the women around him kn the workplace is one more example of inequality in this country. What’s more, the fact that his employers at 21st Century Fox waited to cut ties with him until their revenue streams were hurt is even more shameful. As long as profits come before people we as a society are seriously unwell.