Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Outrageous Imposture of Contemporary Television as a Medium of Knowledge

As many of you know, I do not watch television. But occasionally, I watch a segment on YouTube. I just did and it appalled me deeply. This is a four-minute "story" on the teaching of science in Texas. I favor "teaching the controversy" over Darwinism. Darwinists typically do not. However, you will not learn anything of substance from this special-effects laden, image-mongering, sound-bit crazed, and factoid-frenzied hyperactive hodgepodge. Since I do not watch TV, when I see something like this it is jarring, startling, and intellectually offensive. It frightens me to think that people live in this world--on an average of four hours a day, according to the new Nielsen ratings.

There is simply no way to gain any meaningful knowledge about this issue from this format. They took hours of interviews and used no more than 10 second sound bites. They tried to distill (and dramatize) important scientific, pedagogical, and legal issues into four minutes of rapid-fire image explosions (with musical background where needed, of course).

Friends, stop watching TV for just ten days. Then go back and watch. You will be stunned. You will be better for it. Leave the cave and ascend to reality.


Yossman said...

As you may know, I am no friend of television either. Partly inspired by your example. Now, having made the transition to the US from Holland, I must admit that US television is totally chaotic.

It bombards me with one-liners from shouting people who are hardly able to make themselves heard because of the 'background' noise. Sounds like a commercial? No this is regular tv. Something like 'The 10 most venomous creatures in the world'. TV programs and commercials blend into each other seamlessly and are hard to distinguish from each other. I cannot watch it. Its chaotic, stupid, loud, imposing and immodest.

It's not that I want to compare European tv favorably with US tv (It is bad in a different way). It's only that just having arrived in the US I might be able to give you an interesting first impression of this medium to corroborate your viewpoint.

BigJuicyPOOP said...

During people's 10 day TV Fast, they ought to consider reading The Age of Missing Information by Bill McKibben.

As Bill McKibben said in his neglected classic, "People who didn't grow up with television tend not to understand its real power - they already had a real world to compare with the pictures on the screen. People my age didn't - we were steeped in television, flavoured for life."

Considering the technology that now engulfs us, how much more are we removed from reality than generations that only had to worry about TV (as opposed to our generation being smothered by iPods, the net, cell phones, etc.)?

One more McKibben nugget, "TV itself is without a doubt the single most important development of the last forty years, _and it endlessly refers to itself_, which adds to the strange sense that you are pickling in its juices."

Is it a coincidence that generations raised on TV have the same self-referntial quality as its medium? And that this self-referring habit is equated with 'pickling'? Being unable to escape one's self is a certain form of torment. And TV can ensure one remains captive to oneself.