“The United States of Television”

5 Jan

“The United States of Television”
a brief essay

“Television is the finest instrument of the devil,” wrote author Norman Mailer. Through it, the mass media has invaded the living rooms of virtually every home in America. It has indoctrinated everyone in the power of consumption; shown us the glamorous life of actors; the two parties and their agenda; the importance of household products to our lives; it has reminded us of the joy of giving at Christmas; the noble pathos of war; and of course, the news from around the world, slanted to showing our own country in a positive light in contrast to the others.

Television has a strange, familiar aspect. In the middle of the night, like the Almighty, it is there when you need it. The sad thing is, we’ve become so conditioned to its presence that we can’t imagine it not being there. Literally, it is our earthly reward for putting up with America’s crime problem; its high cost of living; traffic; pollution; and other ills. The pervasive phenomenon that is television is so potent that it is almost unpatriotic to criticize it. The tube has become, for better or worse, a force in everyone’s lives, replacing the town hall, the parson, and the schoolmarm. It gives us our values, influences our decisions, and has almost achieved personhood. It is the mode whereby commercial forces aim to influence us in our private decisions.

The most salient fact about TV is that it seems to present us with real, unmediated life, when of course, the truth is the opposite. Almost every moment of televised airtime has been carefully stage-managed for maximum result by faceless executives, advertisers, public relations people, political party ops, and other clever bitches and sons of bitches. So powerful is the medium that people have, since its inception, emulated what they see on it. They dress the way they see TV people dress, act the way they act, speak the way they speak. (It can be no coincidence that television emerged, historically, about the same time that Hitler and the Atomic bomb did. It is a symbol of the negation of real meaning. It is a symbol of its own emptiness.)

TV is a force for good, according to some, but to others it is a force of evil. The point is moot. The most salient fact is that TV is not neutral. It propagandizes us, and in the final analysis we allow it to, for the only purpose of television is to get you to watch more television.

Dec 8, 2012


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