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Friday, August 19, 2005

Puff, Puff, Pass

It satellite links
Our United States of Unconsciousness
Apathetic therapeutic and extremely addictive
The methadone metronome pumping out
150 channels 24 hours a day
You can flip through all of them
And still there's nothing worth watching
- Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy

Someone once said, "That which controls your thinking is your God." If that is true then it is not too far-fetched to say that for most Americans television is God. We depend on television to present us with what we should think about, how we should think about it, and why we should approve or disapprove of whatever the television presents us. Sure, we can choose which flavor we receive, be it MSNBC or CNN or Faux News or NBC or ABC or CBS or PBS or any other BS that is presented to us as objective reality, but we are still addicted to the product. It's much like how a weed-head can choose whether he's going to buy some Thai stick or some Afghan or some regular old home-grown Sessamina, but rest assured he will be toking the product soon and very soon. He's addicted.

Just like you.

If it's not the news then it's the soaps or sports or sitcoms or cartoons - Lord knows the dramas' not just for your mama. Whatever our specific tastes demand you know with absolute certainty that when our show is on we will be in front of the television to get our fix. Or we'll have TiVo blow us a shotgun. We've got to get our fix as soon as we can - we're a nation of addicts.

Don't believe me?

Try this - go a year without turning on your television. Sounds ludicrous, right? Alright junkie, try a month. Still too much? How about a week? Can you even make it through one single day without turning on the television? Kind of like the smoker who says that he can quit any time that he wants - hold out for 24 hours, just to prove that he can, and then he's right back to his drug of choice, dragging longer and deeper than before. Here's how you can know with certainty that you are addicted - go without television for a couple days and see how quickly you start manifesting withdrawal symptoms. Here's something that you may not have known - television acts on the central nervous system of human beings in the same manner as an opiate. It's true.


So we're all junkies - who cares? Well, anyone involved in politics who needs people to be able to reason based on facts and logic should care. People don't just watch television - they absorb experiences. People store what they see on television as real events, real experiences. Yes, people can differentiate between fiction and reality - they "know" that what they see on television isn't real - but after the show is over and short-term memory fades into long-term memory, the effect on their thinking is like they vicariously experienced the actual events that unfolded in the show. Television shapes opinions and embeds "facts" into the subconscious of the junkies who watch. But don't take my word for it - from Wes Moore's article:

Psychophysiologist Thomas Mulholland found that after just 30 seconds of watching television the brain begins to produce alpha waves , which indicates torpid (almost comatose) rates of activity. Alpha brain waves are associated with unfocused, overly receptive states of consciousness. A high frequency alpha waves does not occur normally when the eyes are open. In fact, Mulholland's research implies that watching television is neurologically analogous to staring at a blank wall.

I should note that the goal of hypnotists is to induce slow brain wave states. Alpha waves are present during the "light hypnotic" state used by hypno-therapists for suggestion therapy.

When Mulholland's research was published it greatly impacted the television industry, at least in the marketing and advertising sector. Realizing viewers automatically enter a trance state while watching television, marketers began designing commercials that produce unconscious emotional states or moods within the viewer. The aim of commercials is not to appeal to the rational or conscious mind (which usually dismisses advertisements) but rather to implant moods that the consumer will associate with the product when it is encountered in real life. When we see product displays at a store, for instance, those positive emotions are triggered . Endorsements from beloved athletes and other celebrities evoke the same associations. If you've ever doubted the power of television advertising, bear this in mind: commercials work better if you're not paying attention to them!

An addictive mind control device . . . what more could a government or profit-driven corporation ask for? But the really sad thing about television is that it turns everyone into a zombie, no one is immune. There is no higher order of super-intelligent, nefarious beings behind this. It's the product of our very human desire to alter our state of consciousness and escape the hardships of reality .

Reality is hard, so what are you going to do about it? Gonna see what Neil and Drucilla are up to? Check in on Abe & Lexie? Wait for Jack Bauer to save the day?


Emancipated by Athanasius @ 9:00 PM

Read or Post a Comment


Posted by Blogger Andrew C. White @ Saturday, August 20, 2005 11:50:00 AM #

That argument could be made as well, but at least it is passive in nature - all you have is text on a screen. Words, skillfully used, can indeed induce moods and attitudes as well, but not like television. I would say it's closer to:


Posted by Blogger Athanasius @ Saturday, August 20, 2005 12:35:00 PM #

Oscar - your observations and Mulholland's research conclusions are excellent, but i would except the tiny # of programs that are evocative, thought-provoking and challenging on a number of levels: in drama, the Sopranos and some few other intelligent, well-written and well-acted series; the occasional honest documentaries providing in-depth analysis; a few classic comedy series that dared to be topical (most notably, All in the Family); some discussions, events and even call-in segments on C-Span; and, of course, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

for the rest one is reduced to picking out the occasional nugget that might appeal to higher-order thinking. which is really not worth the time or effort.

the paucity of worthwhile programs make it particularly poignant that such a powerful medium is so routinely wasted. its power could be used for real education, for cultural and political enlightenment, for serious intellectual inquiry & debate. that we as a nation don't require this of those who control TV is a great failing, and a great loss.

Posted by Blogger jean*nie @ Saturday, August 20, 2005 12:49:00 PM #

Aaah yes... Frank Zappa knew what he was talking about...

i am the Slime

Posted by Blogger Andrew C. White @ Saturday, August 20, 2005 1:22:00 PM #

Ten years and counting. I can be done. . . .

Posted by Anonymous puddle @ Saturday, August 20, 2005 6:20:00 PM #
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