CBS's Race-based 'Survivor,' Identity Politics at Its Worst?

The Wall Street Journal has a good editorial on CBS's latest ratings ploy, dividing contestants on its "Survivor" show up by race. The board argues, correctly in my view, that this isn't good for America:

Last week CBS revealed that its reality program "Survivor" would divide competing teams (or "tribes") by race. Sometime this fall we could thus be treated to an announcement like, "The white team has managed to vote the black team off the island."

To more than a few people, not surprisingly, this didn't exactly seem like a great idea. In fact, it seemed like a very bad one, playing up identity-politics divisions in a crude and potentially rancorous way. "This idea is so ill-conceived that it would be funny--but for the fact that racism does still sometimes rear its ugly head," New York City Councilman John Liu said.

Still, network executives have not backed down, even when GM, a major "Survivor" sponsor, announced this week its decision to pull its advertising from the program. (GM claims this had nothing to do with the show's new season.) Mark Burnett, the producer of "Survivor," has defended his race-based concept by noting that the show has been criticized in the past for not having enough diversity. "We're always hearing about how we only have two token blacks on the show."

But surely Mr. Burnett and his colleagues realized that their new effort at "diversity" would not pass without controversy. They probably welcomed it, for the show's ratings are in need of a boost. And, like it or not, the ploy will probably work. You don't have to survey every American family, or even every Nielsen family, to find out that people like watching people who look like themselves on TV. Many "Survivor" watchers may well find themselves cheering on "their team." Mr. Burnett suggests that his program is simply presenting life as it really is: "Even though people may work together, they do tend in their private lives to divide along social and ethnic lines."

Related: Media Bistro on advertisers leaving the show. Libs are already using it as an excuse to bash conservatives. Michelle Malkin notes the hypocrisy of some New York politicians complaining about dividing people by race.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013