Thursday, October 26, 2006

TV Unreality

This Breakpoint commentary about the unreality of television quotes some of my comments from Truth Decay.


Kevin Winters said...

So images necessarily "falsify life"?

Craig Fletcher said...


Pardon me for saying so, but I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that your post is sarcastic.

You seem like more of a "thinker" than most from your other posts, I'm sure you can see the point trying to be made.

Our society immerses itself in the unreality of television and therefore has become reprogrammed to view a false reality through the lense of the idiot box.

This doesn't mean that "images necessarily falsify life" in totality, but rather that television (excessive use of especially) alters our perception of the real and has adverse affects on nearly all aspects of life, thinking, relationships, etc.

Kevin Winters said...


No, it was not meant sarcastically. At least since Plato the veracity of "images" has been put into question (as in the representation/reality or perception/reality pair). I was just trying to see what Groothuis' position was on this issue.

Furthermore, the Malcolm Muggeridge quote--"the one thing television can’t do is express ideas"--necessarily ties into my question. If television is incapable of expressing ideas, then my statement would be true--images necessarily falsify life. As Groothuis was referenced with this quote, I wasn't certain if he would agree with it.

While I can indeed "see the point trying to be made" (which I don't quite agree with), I'm questioning one of its possible presuppositions which I find dubious. "Image" itself is possible only on the backdrop of truth, as it is found in a particular context (with all that contexts entail). Hence, Groothuis' distinguishing between "image-based" and "truth, logic, consistency, and evidence" seems to be dubious.

Jonathan Erdman said...

I blogged on this a little while back when I saw a South Park episode about a middle-aged man that spent all his time on the internet playing a fantasy game....So, for me I have been asking myself this question: What is right/wrong with unreality?

It is quite easy for Curmudgeons to criticize those dastardly tv watchers for losing themselves in the so-called "unreality" of the screen. But then those same Curmudgeons will lose themsevles for hours in a novel or a classical music performance - or a John Coltrane expression.

I fail to see how a novel is more "real" than a sitcom. Both diconnect the human mind/heart from the world around them. But this, in and of itself, is not wrong. Unreality often helps us better understand reality.

One of the things that C.S. Lewis criticizes (in Screwtape Letters) is that we can become so concerned with the "real world" that we lose the ability to connect with a God who is so clearly beyond the "real."

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

There is real artistry and intelligence in the music of John Coltrane. This is not true of TV; it is a far different medium: more limited, more deceptive, less intellectual. Read Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death or McLuhan! All media are not created equal.

Jonathan Erdman said...


Would you say, then, that because the television medium is "more deceptive" and "less intellectual" that it is inherently wrong/evil? Would you attach a moral value to the medium itself? Or would it depend on the message/content that the medium conveyed?

For example, if we all sit around the television and watch a lecture on logic by Prof. Groothuis are we all on morally shaky ground because the medium itself is deceptive and non-intellectual?

I guess it seems difficult for me to place a moral value on the medium, and if we can't place a moral value on the medium, then doesn't it become a question of content? i.e. what kinds of things are being viewed on the television as opposed to the fact that tv "falsifies life."

I am sure that a reading of Postman will help me better understand your position. So, I'll put his book in the shopping cart and get it in the mail when I can come by some more cash for books - maybe I can check the couch and find some quarters!