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Don’t Toss the TV
The common-sense observation that tools are not the reason carpenters misuse them has had a huge impact on political debates, such as those over gun control. While the “guns don’t kill people, people kill” bumper sticker reductionism is both trite and true, people do take responsibility for their actions, and the actions of hammers, power drills and pistols and SUVs under their control seem to be nothing more than Plain old common sense.
Of course, common sense is rare these days. So when the target of their rage is the mass media, especially television, we find a surprisingly large number of otherwise sensible “personal responsibility proponents” rejecting this straightforward idea. Suddenly, people started hearing the kind of catch-all generalizations and one-size-fits-all thinking that is so typical of the average politician: “Television is a wasteland, a cesspool that teaches our children violence and mindless consumerism.” This There’s no room for gray in this idea; it’s as black and white as the original Milton Berle collection. The chorus grew louder.
Recently, at the weekly men’s gathering at his church in Glendale, California, Jerry Bray heard a traveling preacher plead with the congregation to turn away their televisions, CDs, and other “awful objectionable device” in the trash. Obviously, it’s acceptable to recycle them into a toaster or space heater, but they should definitely not be sold at a garage sale. “You can protect your family from TV poisoning without selling it to other people at a low price or otherwise,” the evangelist said of the pamphlets and cookies handed out after his speech.
If you “kill the devices that bring this filth into your home,” the brochure continues, you’re clearly not missing out on anything. In this abolitionist view, there is “no harm” in getting rid of the electronic multimedia funnels that funnel the sick and barbaric products of the “perverse and atheistic” entertainment industry into the home. That’s very exciting stuff.
Yet, somehow, it sounds like a poor carpenter is blaming the tools again. We don’t like what other people build with them, so stay away from hammers, screwdrivers and belt sanders. We didn’t like some, if not many of the shows, so the TV just went off. Wait a mininute!
Over the past few years, more and more worried parents are choosing to ditch the TV. Millions of well-meaning moms and conscientious dads have apparently decided that today’s American TV shows are 100% (not) pure, pure garbage. Arguing, it’s the wasteland “outside”, but you don’t have to bring it “into the family shelter”. The key word here is ‘it’, which stands for everything from a Homer Simpson snuff box to a Seurat impressionist masterpiece. “It” is all “worthless”.
or is it? Of course, the most popular sitcoms, cop movies, reality shows and game shows are childish and perverted dads, if not from the blatant propaganda of “the unrepented sensualists of Hollywood-on-the-Volga” (that preacher can change the phrase!) .but there program list, sandwiched between Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s channel listings and Marilyn Manson’s paean to the joys of demon possession, is a fantastic documentary about the Lewis and Clark adventure. Just change the channel.
Look, on the next page of the show listings — floating above the catchphrases for the hit reality show of the moment (cops and prostitutes living in cars?), next to an exposé listing of fascist cannibals in the Catholic Church — is Invited Watch “Jesus of Nazareth” and “Moses the Lawgiver” back-to-back later in the week. That’s a big spread, isn’t it?
A semi-indulgent father recently told me that he just doesn’t have the time to monitor his 12-year-old son’s viewing habits. Of course, it occurred to me that he might as well say that he just didn’t have the time to raise his son, to instill values in him, to teach him how to monitor himself. So the easiest answer for this father was to get rid of the TV altogether, which is a classic example of throwing out the baby along with the bathwater — along with the soap, towels, washcloths and tub. The young man will now be exempt from “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” though he missed out on the opportunity to learn about America’s astronaut training program.
Of course, I told my father that there is a way to avoid the former and avoid the latter, isn’t it?
“Too much work and too many hours,” he said. “It’s just easier to get rid of it, all of it.”
oops. With hundreds of channels, there is really something for everyone in the information age cafeteria of “custom” TVs, with a seemingly limitless choice of cable and satellite receivers, now complemented by a plethora of recording, Delay, replay, recording, stitching, slicing and dicing programs. These features come with a ton of content; in my area, the cable company offers me high-speed Internet access and a TV package with all the channels I need for about $90 a month.
However, I don’t spend much time watching TV, and I never lie down in front of the TV to flip through the channels. I get a Sunday paper mostly for TV listings, and if there’s something I want to watch next week, I can make time to watch it (rare) or set the DVR to record (common). My wife and I will unwind with cooking shows (God bless Emeril Lagasse – bang!); watch various political spin squadrons spin, jab, parry, and obfuscate on cable talk shows; occasionally extrapolate with Sherlock Holmes Who did the dirty work this time. These are not wasteland experiences, I assure you.
Simply reducing the whole of technology to being unimportant to one’s life is too easy, and dangerous; you’ll miss out on a lot of what’s going on around you. If you have kids, you can limit the harm TV shows can do to your kids by dumping them, but you’re also limiting the rich experience. They’re going to see Miley Cyrus’ musical soap opera or Shannon Doherty’s latest brash Gen-X character anyway, whether at a friend’s house, at the mall or at school; but they Won’t see your play-by-play reviews and then switch channels to an acceptable alternative you’ve investigated and offered.
Yes, television has had a constant, ubiquitous impact on our society. But television is just another tool. Getting rid of your home can be a powerful statement, but in the end it’s a self-defeating one. The challenge—especially for parents, but also for the rest of us, who crave enlightenment and intellectual stimulation, and occasional escapist fare (and that’s okay!)—is controlling this powerful technology. So powerful, in fact, that George Orwell 1984 As many large publicity monitors as there are characters. Big Brother wouldn’t be big without TV.
Interestingly, however, it’s not the fear of television being the incessant salesman for authoritarian states. No, as technology matured in the 1950s and beyond, television did the exact opposite, serving as a full-time silent snooper. With video surveillance cameras proliferating in the UK (London alone has more than 4 million units), and their gradual introduction into the US in the form of almost benign “traffic cameras”, perhaps we shouldn’t be seeing Orwellian overheating and Unfounded paranoia.
Use and Abuse It is too early to tell how the public’s use and abuse of television, video security systems, and related technologies will develop. It is true that tools can be quickly transformed into weapons; some things, like the axe, arguably started both. Watching TV may help in this situation. Ultimately, it’s up to each of us to take action for ourselves and our children, using our family’s trusty axe to chop down the wood that warms the fireplace, heats the house and lights the rooms – so we can do so safely and For comfort, read a story and look at the accompanying illustrations.
An intruder, someone who might even want us to get hurt, is always watching us let our guard down so he can break in and grab that ax and use it against us. He may wish to sell our kids sugar-coated nihilism when we’re not watching, swearing at cable movies, or otherwise destroying our safe havens. But we are not powerless here. We are sober and hardworking, and remember that when we sleep, we can turn on our surveillance cameras and lock our doors, both figuratively and literally. Still, as the traveling evangelist said, there are villains plotting to attack you and your children over the airwaves and cable connections.
There’s no good reason to miss da Vinci himself just because he wants to keep The Da Vinci Code Get out of your house. Of course, your “enemy” may try to take over the entire entertainment industry so that one day, there will be no quality options at all.
But whose fault is it if you let this happen? Why are you speeding up the day? Do not do this. Don’t help the wrong side.
Don’t throw that TV away.
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