I have written twice before about ABC late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel’s penchant for urging his viewers to inflict emotional distress on their trusting children, because Jimmy and other mean-spirited jerks get a big kick out of watching kids scream and cry following cruelty from their parents. As I wrote the last time Kimmel issued one of his “challenges,” which was to spoil Christmas for your kid by giving them horrible gifts (like a half-eaten sandwich):
“Children are not props for Jimmy Kimmel’s sadistic amusement, and parents who are willing to use their children this way… are, to be blunt, rotten, despicable, and untrustworthy parents. Something important—Compassion? Kindness? Empathy? Loyalty? Responsibility? Love? — is absent in their parental make-up, and that void is being cynically exploited by Kimmel, who has crossed the threshold from arrested adolescent to full-fledged villain. Since Kimmel has twice been rewarded with positive publicity for egging on parents to harm their kids, what can we expect next from Jimmy?…There’s almost no limit to the great YouTube videos one can create when you’re willing to lie to your kids to upset them.”
Well, now we know. Jimmy asked parents to pre-chew their kids food and serve it to them, to see their horrified reactions. Last night, he showed the hysterically funny “winners.” One disgusted and enraged teenage girl, finally told by her folks that the prank was Jimmy Kimmel’s idea, said to the camera, resoundingly, “You suck, Jimmy!”
Indeed he does.
I even started a Facebook page to try to gather some proof of mass indignation against this despicable form of “entertainment”; it was a resounding failure. I think the page has 11 “likes.” A Facebook page honoring Ed Gein would get ten times that. That’s fine–if everyone thinks it’s ethical and responsible to use kids for cruel practical jokes and then embarrass them further by posting documentation on YouTube, that’s useful information. Now I know that the American obsession with momentary celebrity and social media has passed responsible parenthood and kindness to children as a priority. As an ethicist, I need to know that.
I guess there’s more work to be done than I thought.