karlht: (Default)
[personal profile] karlht
I mentioned yesterday that I hated television with a blinding passion. It's probably worth it to go into some of the whys and wherefores of that statement, and to explain some patterns in my life about which I have some ambivalence.

First of all, bashing television has gone in and out of style over the last three decades, at least -- Harlan Ellison's Sucking the Glass Teat wasn't that long ago, was it? And what about the TV shows that have brought some of my dearest friends together, like Buffy or Firefly or, saints add preservatives to us, due South? No, my complaint is not so much the programming, although that, like anything else, obeys Sturgeon's Law with a vengeance. I mean, I don't want to burn all the bookstores down just because Ann Coulter's got a new bestseller out. My problems with television lie primarily in two areas -- one, the glorification of the short-attention-span culture, which I find both frightening and inevitable, and two, the commodification of the audience into receptive consumers for the benefit of the advertisers. Media consolidation and the stifling of political dissent enter into my misgivings as well, of course, but I see them as consequences of the two major objections above.

The television tells us, again and again, that being part of the modern world means constantly being bombarded with new information, and that speed is of the essence when dealing with this new information, because it is all vital. It encourages us to 'process' information as if we were machines designed for that purpose. But I don't feel any attraction, as a human being, to 'processing' information, any more than I have any attraction to 'processing' food. The same society that keeps us too tired to cook joyfully, to share the gathering of the daily bread with our nearest and dearest, is the one that is constantly screaming at us that we need more information, and we need the information that only the advertisers have. It isn't true, and even though we learn the cynical lesson that television programs are really there to sell us the products advertised during the commercials, we still accept the practice with no more than a passing reflection on the ways it shapes our actions and reactions.

The humanist paradox of what I call the here-and-now (roughly speaking, North America since 1945) is that although we've shown ourselves to be very good at inventing 'labour-saving' devices and exhibited a huge appetite for boundless growth, we're not any happier than we were in 1945. We produce enough food to feed the whole world, but somehow the whole world doesn't get fed. The United States is one of the wealthiest nations on the globe, and yet we can't seem to get all of our people fed, much less make a serious dent in feeding the rest of the world. But the amount of attention-grabbing material generated on behalf of huge commercial interests in the same timeframe is ... well, you can read a television schedule, right? How much of what is in that schedule is commercials? How much of it has anything to do with anything but keeping the money in the hands of the people who put on the programming? You want my primary objection to television? That's about the best face I can put on it.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-01-04 03:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chipuni.livejournal.com
Y'know, it's messages like this that make me proud of you.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-01-04 08:39 pm (UTC)
fufaraw: (bear n i)
From: [personal profile] fufaraw
(grumble)

I should charge you rent for sharing my brain. But you're so much more articulate and eloquent than me--and you know, external. I mean, nobody's ever going to see my point of view when I just mumble it over inside my head.

So, thanks. And don't worry about the rent, okay?

(no subject)

Date: 2005-01-05 03:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chicating.livejournal.com
Step off of my medium, sweetie. I don't wanna have to hurt you, more than you like.;)
And yet I can't disagree.
I need to stop having such Libran moments.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-01-05 06:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elenabtvs.livejournal.com
Harlan Ellison's Sucking the Glass Teat wasn't that long ago, was it?

Ah, my dear, my darling one. 'Twas nigh on 30 years ago...

And, you know, are people happier now than they were in 1945? Dunno. Did anyone ask the people of 1945 if they were happy? Was personal happiness something that was thought of? Strived for? Was it not enough that you had enough to support your family? That there was no war on your soil? The US, if I recall correctly, soon ended wartime rationing, where the UK had it well into the 50s. Canada, oddly, I am not sure about.

As for your other questions... See, Canada does a huge amount of humanitarian relief; food, money, resources. And, while we are far from perfect, our social safety net means that it is a lot better (which is perhaps not exactly the right word to use) to be poor here than it is in the US.

And, television-wise, except for some excellent children and young adult programing, and excellent satire and sketch comedy, our television tends to suck.

I don't know how that's connected.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-01-05 09:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] karlht.livejournal.com
My feeling has always been that Canada has a better grip on the necessary balance: public airwaves that stay at least moderately public, thanks to the presence of Crown corporations like the CBC, less blatant commercialization of the culture, and a great willingness to lend shoulders to heavy humanitarian problems. Canada's not perfect, of course: her history with her First Peoples is good only by comparison with her neighbour to the south.

In short, I'd take mediocre television (especially if it includes Forever Knight) if it came with a sane foreign policy and a humane social safety net in a heartbeat.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-01-06 02:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elenabtvs.livejournal.com
The mandate of the CBC is to satirize the government. Not many countries have a state television/radio station that can do that.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-01-14 12:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] marcyss.livejournal.com
Interesting- bashing television and all that.

When Jeff & I first moved out of his mum's place, I thought I'd miss tv since Jeff didn't want to bother with the expense.

I was wrong.
Perhaps not to surprising really, as I'd rather read than watch tv... I mean- I've always been that way. But I find now that when we visit others- tv is the last thing I want to see. I'm the one to turn off the tv if I'm on a break at work. (Only if I'm by myself, of course.) I find tv to be an annoyance. The only random noise in the background should be music, in my opinion. It's funny, I mention that we don't have tv, we can only watch dvd's and videos... others ask how I can stand that. Now... I think it's because life is worth more than wasting time with television. Expanding the mind with reading... it's worth more than anything in the world.

I don't think I'll ever want tv programs in my home again.

Never thought I'd say that.

Strange? Perhaps.