Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television

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Jerry Mander (whose parents had a delightful sense of humor when naming him) wrote this book 1977 and it wheezes across forty years to raise a shaking fist against that 20th century devil, television. It’s almost quaint to read in this age where everyone’s snoot is deep into their own tiny screens, city workers under the sidewalk watching videos on their phones, people heads down staring at their inches of entertainment instead of interacting and engaging in their surroundings. It’s a bit of a depressing and unnecessary read in this era of our first reality-show president.

Jerry tells us from the get-go that he’s a reformed advertising executive, and that’s how he had he Aha! moment— when he saw how much clients were spending to thrust images of their products into your home, compared to how little was spent by non-profits trying to get you to do the right thing (e.g. recycle).

His arguments:

  1. The mediation of experience: we no longer have direct contact with the world, everything is experienced through a film/screen/unreality.
  2. The colonization of experience: TV creates consumers, period. That’s it.
  3. The effects of TV on human beings: TV produces neuro-physiological responses in its viewers, creating confusion and submission to external images. “Taken together, the effects amount to conditioning for autocratic control.” TV loves creating passive people who soak up its message, e.g. couch potatoes. “We are only the second generation that has had to face the fact that huge proportions of the images we carry in our heads are not natural images which arrived as though they were connected to the planet… Without training in sensory cynicism, we cannot possibly learn to deal with this.”
  4. The inherent biases of TV: you only see what is shown. (How does one show empathy/kindness on TV? easier to show violence, drama)

Perhaps the best part for me was the act of reading this forty-year-old book with all the markings and scrawls and notations of other readers across the ages.