SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Fish or Cut Bait

The Unreality of Reality
By Bob Ciminel


August 21, 2006

I hate to admit it, but I have not watched a single episode of "Survivor," nor any other reality-based program. I guess that's what happens when you live in the eddy and not the mainstream of life. Truth be told, I don't watch any of the major network prime time shows. Lately however, and much to my wife's displeasure, I have been watching reruns of "CSI - Las Vegas." The computer graphics showing bullets and blunt objects destroying brains and vital organs has got to be the ultimate in voyeurism. CSI is not reality television.

This morning there was a feature on National Public Radio about CBS airing the documentary film "9/11" by the Naudet brothers. This would be the third showing of the film. Of course, the film is being shown now to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 unprovoked killing of over 3,000 civilians by an organization that has declared war on the United States. (Has Amnesty International ever accused Al Qaeda of war crimes?)

jpg 9 11 Heroes

9 11 Heroes
Artist Mike Keefe; The Denver Post
Distributed to subscribers by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

Getting back to my point, there is an ongoing debate about CBS not bleeping out the four-letter words used by fireman and other rescue workers as they dealt with the enormity of the destruction they were witnessing at the World Trade Center. In previous showings the cursing was bleeped. However, new rules passed by the Federal Communications Commission after the Janet Jackson Super Bowl half-time burlesque show have stiffened the fines for inappropriate language broadcast over the airwaves. In particular, two very popular words, one starting with an F and the other starting with an S, are expressly unacceptable. I noticed lately though that they have no problem with actors using words containing the name of the top member of the Christian deity that starts with a G.

Some say that cursing is a sign of limited vocabulary. To them I say, "What words would you have chosen from your vast repertoire of nouns, verbs, and adjectives to describe the sights, sounds, smells, and emotions you were experiencing had you been there?"

Those who do not want CBS to edit the sound track, even though children may be watching, use the excuse that this is reality, and children need to know that life can be violent and people swear a lot when they are under stress. To that I would reply with a word that starts with a B, is combined with one of the words the FCC strongly objects to, and describes male bovine excrement. In more socially restrictive environments we would simply say "BS!"

Today's children are exposed to more violence and foul language before they enter middle school than I heard (and used) during the five years I spent sharing a submarine with 124 other sailors, and that's if children only watch the Cartoon Network and the Family Channel!

I, for one, do not believe that bleeping out the four-letter words, (or as in the case of PBS, modifying the film so you can't see the person mouthing the words), affects reality because no film or video or photograph can capture reality. Why? Because Schrödinger's cat proved there is no such thing as reality.

Students of quantum physics, which I am not, are very familiar with Herr Schrödinger's cat - let's call him Fritz. In 1935, the Austrian physicist proposed a theoretical experiment, which means he did not use a real cat, to prove that at the subatomic level we affect reality simply by observing it. In other words, reality doesn't exist until we make it, and each of us creates his or her own "reality."

Schrödinger's theory was simple. He proposed putting Fritz into a solid steel box along with a Geiger counter, a radioactive substance that decays very slowly, a hammer, a mechanism for dropping the hammer, and a glass vial containing cyanide gas. He would need an interlock that only armed the system after everything was in the box and the lid was closed. His theory hinged on the fact that radioactive substances decay in a very random manner by emitting alpha or beta particles that can be detected by the Geiger counter. When the Geiger counter clicked, the hammer would drop, smash the vial, and release the cyanide.

Schrödinger hypothesized that after we closed the lid we wouldn't know if Fritz was dead or alive. Did the radionuclide emit a particle or didn't it? Only Fritz would know the answer. For us, reality would be created when we opened the box and took a look at Fritz. At that point we determined if Fritz was dead or alive, and up until that point, from our perspective, Fritz existed in an indeterminate state, neither dead nor alive. That is how we "create" reality.

If, after playing Russian roulette with Fritz's nine lives, we repeated the experiment with an infinite number of cats an infinite number of times, we'd probably find that 50 percent of the time the cat was dead and 50 percent of the time the cat was alive. So, what is the reality?

Using the theory of Schrödinger's Cat and applying it to media, a "reality" television show is not reality. The people taping or filming the show created reality by observing and recording what was happening, and by just being there they affected reality. Had the Naudet brothers not been filming a rookie New York fireman on 9/11, and you or I had been there instead, our reality would by unlike the realism recorded on their film. And the least of our concerns would be what kind of language those heroes used.

On the Web:

Fish or Cut Bait by Bob Ciminel

Bob Ciminel's articles may include satire and parody, and mix fact with fiction.
He assumes informed readers will be able to tell the difference. Bob lives in Roswell, Georgia, and works for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations.  He is also a conductor on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway.
Contact Bob at

Bob Ciminel ©2001 - 2006
All Rights Reserved

Publish A Letter on SitNews
        Read Letters/Opinions
Submit A Letter to the Editor

Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska