Estimated reading time: 3 minutes —
VB Rant Week
7 Bitchy Posts in 7 Angry Days
Rant the second: Television is Bullshit!
I wrote yesterday that Fútbol is bullshit, but really, it’s minor-league compared to the Heavyweight Champion of Bullshit, Television.
Later this week I plan to write God is Bullshit, but even the supreme sociopath hasn’t ruined as many lives as Television.
When you surf the net… when you click endlessly on YouTube videos or Stumble and Stumble and Stumble Upon some more, you can consume a lot of crap… a lot of fluff… a lot of poison… but you can also weave through remarkable content as well… and given that YouTube peeps upload 48 new hours of content every minute, at the very least, it will be your personal journey of self-curated content.
Television represents the worst of 20th century hegemony with it’s top-down, one-to-many approach to culture as dictated by the few. Television is a distraction. And as George Gerbner showed in 40 years of seminal research, Television cultivates truly problematic social values.
Want to destroy a culture?
Give all the television stations to someone who doesn’t value the culture.
Or to marketers who only want to sell products.
Or to politicians who want to sell self-serving policy.
The 9/11 terrorist attacks were so convenient for the until then “Accidental President” George W. Bush that some have argued that the Bush Administration was involved.
My own personal conspiracy theory is that Bush’s true genius was in orchestrating Paris Hilton’s prison term! As Bush went to war, Hilton went to prison. Not since Nero fiddling as Rome burned has a world leader conceived such a brilliant distraction.
Actually wikipedia sez that Nero didn’t fiddle, he sang. And back when Hilton went to prison much was said about her carrying The Bible and Eckhart Tolle into prison with her… and the sales of Tolle’s book went through the roof… and others took the trouble to notice in the myriad images of this event that the two small books could have easily fit in her large purse. But of course, they weren’t reading materials, they were props. But what wasn’t discussed was that the entire affair wasn’t a prison term, it was a prop!
And Rome burned.
One of the greatest regrets of my life is the hours lost to television. I feel like a drug addict lamenting a missing portion of their life.
Television promotes stereotypes and shallow understanding of people and cultures. Television promotes sound-bite understanding of complex social issues.
Television promotes stereotypical gender roles and impossible body images.
And again, returning to Gerbner’s work, it promotes a panoply of anti-social values. He shows how violence on television does not so much promote violent behavior as commonly presumed, rather, seeing repeated violence promotes a perception of victimization.
As an example he cites the myriad television examples of violence in subways, vis-a-vis the tens of thousands of car commercials modeling reckless driving as freedom that never results in a crash or arrest. His data demonstrates that the more television you watch, the more afraid of the subway you are and the more empowered you feel in your car.
Yet the truth is that subways are in fact statistically very safe places, and driving your car is the single most dangerous thing most people ever do.
As screen violence promotes a sense of victimization people ask not for more youth programs to, at a comparatively low cost, help people become a part of the social fabric, but instead heavy television viewers are more likely to want more police, longer prison terms, more capital punishment – all, in themselves, violent, and far more expensive acts, that do not address the root problems of a culture.
“ “fearful people are more dependent, more easily manipulated and controlled, more susceptible to deceptively simple, strong, tough measures and hard-line postuires….They may accept and even welcome repression if it promises to relieve their insecurities.””
— George Gerbner, 1981
The differences in the Occupy Wall Street coverage on Broadcast Television vs YouTube are remarkable. Extraordinary. Shocking. Awakening.
And have you seen the commercials? If you’re not a television watcher, you should subject yourself to an hour or two of the agonizing parade of messages promising meaning from the most superficial consumptive behavior.
Half a century ago Newton Minow famously said,
When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better.
But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there, for a day, without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.
The values cultivated by television programing destroy culture.
The values cultivated by television commercials destroy culture.
Television is bullshit!