The Constant Struggle Between Privacy and Information

Intervention (TV series)
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By Ben Spielberg

In 2005, A&E’s Intervention took the world by storm. For the first time, the addiction was portrayed more candidly than it ever had been to a mainstream audience. The show featured addicts in the everyday world of their addiction as their families and loved ones try to get them to go to rehab.

I use this television show as an example because it represents an interesting split in both logic and morality. On one hand, the show exposes a side of addiction first hand—people who may not personally know any drug addicts and alcoholics are becoming more knowledgeable about the epidemic. Hopefully this is leading to people to share their knowledge with others, raising the rate of which people go to rehabs, and cease the enablement of their family members.

While this sounds great in theory, there is the fact that most people are watching these types of shows for entertainment purposes; there are many people that are entertained by Allison’s Dust-Off habit but could care less whether or not she goes to treatment afterward.

Intervention spawned some new series’ like Hoarders and My Strange Addiction, as well as A&E’s most recent addition, Relapse. Is it wrong to be entertained by the struggle of other people, or is entertainment actually a method to reinforce education?

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2 thoughts on “The Constant Struggle Between Privacy and Information

  1. In my opinion, it is always easy to question the intentions of anyone involved in a buisness that helps others and what their true motives are… profit or altruism. Televising ANYTHING will always beg the question of motive. I just looked up the word exploit in the dictionary and found both positive and negative definitions pertaining specifically to motive. I suppose then the ‘proof in the pudding’ would then come down to the after care and follow thru of the profiting party. I, an admitted former Howard Stern and Jerry Springer viewer, came to the understanding that there was VERY LITTLE after care of the participants and their families , offered by those who profited most from the exploitation which then leans towards negative exploitation. Now if these intervention shows and other addiction reality TV shows offer their participants a FREE aftercare plan and subsequent therapy and residential treatment, then perhaps there is a more altruistic motive for both raising awareness, and spreading more compassion for the mental illness and seeking to be part of the solution more than profiting off the problem.

  2. Roy,

    I think that the distinction between altruism and profit is an important one to make. With a for-profit television show, I do not expect a completely or primarily altruistic operation, but I hope that altruism can function as a secondary motive. I hope that these shows institute an after-care program. Otherwise, it is just a new case study in “negative” exploitation.

    As an addict that has gone through several treatment centers, I do not watch these shows to increase awareness (as I believe I am made aware on a daily basis through meetings and treatment that addiction’s grip is increasing across all socioeconomic boundaries)– if I watch them it is for entertainment.

    Just as you made a distinction between negative and positive exploitation, I would like to make a distinction between “negative” and “positive” entertainment. I am entertained when I watch these shows, I am not bored. But I am not laughing at their ridiculous problems. I am engrossed, I am interested– and I also hope that they get better.

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