I just got this email from John Langley, the guy who made the uber-reality show Cops. I see it as an acknowledgement of all of us who tend to read more into TV programs and their creators' intent than they might suggest on the surface.
Dear Mr. Rushkoff:
It was refreshing to recently read "Media Virus" and your take on "Cops," which I happen
to produce and for which I'm responsible as the guy who created it. I can't tell you how
tiresome it is to read traditional criticism and critiques of "Cops" as an expression of this
or that, usually far from the mark (or at least in terms of my intentions). As a kid of the '60s,
I was more likely to name the show "Pigs" than "Cops," so it was indeed rewarding to read that
you positioned the program more accurately in its existential realm of relativism. All I do is feebly
hack away at trying — emphasis on trying — to capture some version of "reality" that will
speak for itself, including the echolalia of the very media influence that filters it by the act of
recording it. (Viva Heisenberg!) Anyone with half a brain should recognize the social, political
and philosophic issues it sometimes reveals in the quotidian pursuit of law and order and the
meaning of street crime.
In any case, keep up the good work! And apologies for getting to you so late in the day. Your
book is no less valid for the delay.
Executive Producer – "Cops"
Not only does an email like that make my month, but restores my faith in the notion that absolutely mainstream programs might still be intended to have a rehabilitative or even noxious effect on the overculture. The fact that Langley made Cops in the spirit that Albert Maysles made Salesman means that we can cut through the clutter and expose mass audiences to virulent memes – even in the darkest of times.
(Douglas Rushkoff is a guestblogger)