Seeking Progressive Social Change
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TV-B-Gone! Commercial media and public spaces

So there I am, standing in line at the post office, watching the ubiquitous television silently running through the standard montage of daily disasters. Homes falling into rivers, people being mugged on security cameras, twenty car pileups on the highway, and on.

Just another day among my fellow citizens in the public square. And I ask you: Is this information we need to help us build fulfilled lives? Does it better our democracy?

No. It’s cheap entertainment. And since it comes by way of other people’s misery, (hurricanes, floods, unsolvable dilemmas), it’s entertainment at another’s expense, and for cable news profits.

That, dear readers, is called exploitation.

About a year back I had to go to the local cable TV store, the place where you exchange a busted remote or set-top box. And there they were: Three TVs tuned to Lifetime, keeping the folk well sedated during the wait, I suppose. They were running some sappy “romance” movie, and a woman was being raped and beaten while we stood there watching.

It was the most surreal event you can imagine – not just because a woman was being sexually abused before our eyes, but that most people yawned and scratched themselves as if nothing was wrong with it.

Why is it OK that people are raped, pillaged and beaten across 500 channels all day long and it’s OK with us? What’s happened to our sense of perspective? And why must we – and our kids – be subjected to this junk at public spaces? More and more you run into television intruding onto our public world. My bank’s got them, the doctor’s office uses them, even the diner I used to like put them up. We don’t eat meals in my house with the television on; why would I go to a restaurant to sit dumbly in front of one there?

This is one of those political arguments that transcends party. Right-wing, left-wing, we ought to all feel outrage over the excesses of commercial entertainment and its intrusion into our private lives. (And if you want some warm and fuzzies check out Mr. Obama’s eloquence on media and kids here.) That’s why I also love organizations like White Dot, in the UK, a country which frankly is miles ahead of the US in terms of recognizing the negative impact of media on our lives. You can even choose a “media-free” car on the London-Heathrow train. Imagine that.

I think the awareness in the US is starting to jell. Although – sadly – the website for TVTurnoff appears to have gone dark, the Center for Screen Time Awareness seems to have picked up the slack. (If anyone has information on either of these sites, please let me know.) Many people I know profess embarrassment at watching TV, a welcomed sign-of-the-times. Still, the next time you enter a public space and there’s a TV blaring away, just zap the thing with your TV-B-Gone. And help bring a little more peace into the world.

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June 16, 2008   |  Filed Under Living Now   |    Permalink


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