Almost every time I see a "man on the street" type interview, I cringe. Whether it's asking people to offer their views on a political candidate or name the members of the UN Security Council, or even just their favorite TV show, the reality is that most people don't sound all that intelligent when put on the spot by a media crew. It seems that even if they did actually say something vaguely intelligent or amusing, it apparently is usually spliced and diced to sound considerably less so by the time it's aired. I am always left wondering "WHY???" I consider it a hard and fast rule that you should run, not walk, if ever approached by these people. Unless you're hawking a product and you can see some clear financial gain, or you're truly an expert on a topic that the public really needs to be educated about, keep your mouth shut. Or, at least speak off the record, or ask that names be changed.
Obviously I'm out of step with much of America on the issue of personal publicity, as I am totally lost as to why anyone would want to appear on a reality TV show, and the notion of seeking "fame" as an end unto itself is totally insane to me, but at least in these contexts I suppose the people can articulate some explanation for why they're on the show (e.g. get exposure to further their acting career, work for Donald Trump, win a million dollars.)
In most other cases, the motivation for offering up personal details for public consumption is considerably less clear. A few weeks ago, there was an article in the New York Times about the "poor millionaires" in Silicon Valley. My first response was - why, oh why did these people agree to be interviewed for this article? I'm not going to get into the question of whether their comments are good or bad, right or wrong. My question was simply - did these people really not think about how they were going to come across in this article? Is there really any chance to generate sympathy among the general public for these folks who "only" have X million dollars? Based on several people who I spoke with about this article, I was not alone in generally thinking that it was far from a positive impression that they made.
I'm always confused when I see these type of articles. It's sort of like the horror movie when you see someone about to do the obviously stupid thing (go outside alone, answer the phone, whatever) and you think - "never go outside alone. don't answer the phone. IDIOT!" Haven't these people seen a man on the street type interview before, or just read these types of articles themselves and noticed how incredibly stupid these people typically sound?
I don't understand what these people ever think could be gained from agreeing to these interviews, or why they want to subject their lives to public scrutiny. Unless there's a clear professional or financial benefit, I'm at a loss as to the motivation. If there's some desire to enlighten or share some private information about an issue, I don't understand why people wouldn't just do it anonymously. On this front, I recently read an article in the Times Style magazine about women who spend what most people (myself very much included) would consider an absurd amount of money on purses, and then proceed to spend what I (and I assume many others as well) would consider an absurd amount of time talking about them. But at least these people had the sense to only go on record if their screen names were used.
I realize that there is something ironic about me writing in a public blog that I don't understand the willingness and desire to put yourself fully out there for public notice. But at least with the blog I control the content - it isn't going to end up cut and pasted to fit into a reporter's agenda. I read an article recently about Vladimir Nabokov and how the only way he would answer questions for an interview was if they were submitted in writing in advance and would be returned with written answers that would need to be published verbatim, in entirety. Smart man.