Numero Uno—“Weeks before May Day, i.e., May 1st, 1892, the wires under the ocean were freighted with forebodings of evil which it was predicted would happen in many of the large cities of Europe, not excepting London.It was easy to see that a sense of insecurity prevailed throughout the continent, indefinitely intensified by disastrous explosions of dynamite in the city of Paris and elsewhere. The men suspected of murderous intention are called ‘anarchists,’ and an anarchist is one whose hand is supposed to be lifted against all governments and all laws. An anarchist, whether in Chicago, Paris, Berlin, Brussels, London, or St. Petersburg, imagines he can change affairs by exploding dynamite bombs, killing a few people, and wrecking a few buildings. An anarchist is a madman. He may be a student, but he studies in the wrong direction and arrives at conclusions which involve him in ruin. He becomes a monomaniac.
However rational, or apparently rational, upon other subjects, as soon as the question of labor, the wrongs and degradation of labor, is suggested, he becomes a maniac — he wants to kill somebody, he desires wreck and ruin, but is often so intensely in earnest that he accepts the
penalties which the law inflicts upon him, and turns upon his judges with calm defiance and accepts death with the composure of a martyr.
The scare that for several months has prevailed in Europe, and which, apparently, has come to stay, includes crowned heads and the nobility generally. Anarchists esteem all such people as creatures who exist upon the earnings of working men, money of which they are
ruthlessly robbed and for the want of which they are deprived of proper food, shelter, and clothing. They assume that the government is their enemy, and they become, therefore, the enemies of the government. They behold royal families, and a titled aristocracy, living in
pomp and splendor, while they are doomed to poverty which defies exaggeration; they behold vast standing armies, machines designed to suppress any movement designed as a protest against the order of things as it exists, and as a consequence, they plot revenge in darkness. As we have said, they are madmen, who do not reason. Few in numbers, they may be, but they keep Europe, from center to circumference, in perpetual unrest. Crowns, flashing with precious stones, no longer rest easily nor gracefully upon the heads of kings and emperors, since it is the avowed purpose of anarchists to kill them when opportunity offers.
Such is the condition of Europe as we write, and the situation demands the most serious consideration by thoughtful men in the United States.
The question arises, what is the cause of the trouble in Europe? Starvation wages in the first place, for those who work, or, for the great majority of workers — and in the second place, vast bodies of men who cannot secure work at any wages. Such replies ought to suffice, but another cause of discontent, as has been remarked, is the burdens imposed upon labor to support hordes of aristocrats, who toil not, and yet live in regal splendor.
Such a condition of things will produce anarchists as certainly as swamps produce malaria. True, a few anarchists will be killed or imprisoned, but others will take their places, and extermination, while the cause exists, is an impossibility — and if the signs of the times were ever indicative of coming events they now betoken an upheaval in Europe which will change things, whether for the better or the worse, no one knows.
It was the wise saying of Abraham Lincoln that the Republic could not exist ‘half slave and half free,’ and a government cannot exist where the many are crushed and pauperized by the few. It may require centuries to solve the problem, but its solution is inevitable.
It is a truth worth heeding that pernicious ideas spread more rapidly and grow ranker than those which inculcate virtue, and why, it may be asked, should anarchists be denounced when the press teems with declarations that the government is honeycombed with fraud
and corruption, and that the avowed policy is one of stupendous robbery?
View the subject as we may, the outlook is anything but assuring to those who cry “peace.'” Eugene Debs, “May Day in Europe;” 1892
Numero Dos—“One of the optimistic things about this day of ours is the number of its institutions that are breaking down, and the breakdown of government by politics, evident everywhere, has received no sharper illustration in any parliamentary country than in the United States in the special session of Congress just closed. This Congress was literally not allowed to do anything outside the usual appropriations but pass a Tariff Bill. When the lower House was organized, its Speaker, who could have given points on the training of refractory assemblies both to Charles I. and Cromwell, refused to allow it to organize for any other purpose than the passage of the tariff. It was a body sovereign to itself in its own procedure, but the Speaker had the initiative in the appointment of the committees through which alone business could be brought before Congress, and these committees he refused to appoint. Once in the early days of the Republic when the clerk of the House sought to prevent its organizing by refusing to call the roll, and kept the members for four days in helpless turmoil, old John Adams, when the last moment of endurance had come, rose and said, ‘I will call the roll.’He called it, and under his lead, the House, throwing its anarchistic clerk to one side, got itself together and went to work. But there was no heroic John Adams in this Congress, and apparently none of the old spirit he appealed to. Some of the members of this House sputtered about ‘Czar’ and ‘Tyrant,’ but no one did anything, and the plotters for whom the Speaker thus acted had everything their own way. The Tariff Bill the House passed was not prepared by the House. No one pretends that it was.
The House never really debated it, for the bill went to the Senate only a fortnight after it was first reported. The bill was not prepared by the Ways and Means Committee but for it. It was the careful creation of the experts of the special interests which demanded it as the quid pro quo of the campaign contributions they had made. The House was not allowed by the Speaker to attend to anything but the tariff until that was ready to send up to the Senate; after that, it was not allowed to do anything.
The Tariff Bill went through the House in two weeks and got to the Senate early in April, but it was debated there until the end of July. In the long interval of more than three months, the popular branch of the national legislature went through the farce of meeting every other day in the week to potter over an Appropriation Bill, and adjourn to meet ‘the day after to-morrow. ‘
There was no lack of pressing and burrning questions in the political affairs of our 75,000,000 of people demanding the attention of the legislators. But the real rulers had determined that there must be no disturbance of business by interference of the people’s representatives in the people’s concerns, and there was none. The House was as really dispersed for all practical purposes as if some one of the Lord Protectors of monopoly, who are kindly running for the people the industries which they feel sure the people are not capable of running for themselves, had entered the House of Representatives, stationing Pinkertons instead of Puritans at the doors, and had bade the members begone.
The inactivity of the House and the activity of the Senate were equally subservient to business. The tariff as passed by the House was to take effect immediately. The first thing the Senate did was to put off the date until June and later to July. Why? To gain time to improve the measure for the benefit of the taxpayers? For a Senate which in every vote decided against the public and for the privileged, and which in every move was a vane to the breath of monopoly, some more practical motive must be sought.
In a tariff full of scandals the greatest scandal was the sugar schedule, which put all the revenue machinery of the government at the service of the Sugar Trust, to assist in depriving the people and the government alike of revenue. The use the Sugar Trust, as a matter of fact, made of this postponement of the day on which the tariff was to take effect, illuminates with the vividness of one of our men-of-war searchlights the reason for the delay. It enabled its shrewd managers to rush all the raw sugar that could be found on sale in foreign markets through our custom houses before the higher duties were levied.
One of the clearest explanations of all this was made to the public by a remarkable petition sent to Congress by General George A. Forsythe, of the regular army. General Forsythe served with conspicuous gallantry through the Civil War, and he has displayed, perhaps, a greater bravery in facing, with this exposure, the displeasure of the all-powerful interests at Washington on which, as an officer of the army, his future so much depends. Unwilling to rest in silence before the betrayal of the people by their sworn trustees, and unable to endure the apathy with which this seemed to be met, General Forsythe led a forlorn hope of one, and laid before Congress the results of a thorough investigation of the whole matter in the shape of a very earnest petition to it, not to put the people again at the mercy of these cornerers of sugar.
He presented convincing evidence which he had gathered that once before during a debate on the tariff the Sugar Trust had been able to pocket between eight and nine millions of dollars at the cost of the government and the people. This they did by hurrying forward special importations of raw sugar during the preparation of the Wilson tariff of 1894. He proved also that at the moment of his petition the trust had its buyers in every market of the world to purchase raw sugars which were being imported and stored in American warehouses to escape the higher duty expected. He showed that its accumulation had already reached twice that of its former coup of the same kind, and amounted to a nine months’ supply, and that on this, if the Tariff Bill as it then stood in the Senate was passed, the Trust would make a profit, in addition to their other profits of manufacture, of not less than $16,000,000 to $18,000,000 by evading the new customs tax.
General Forsythe had some unusual facilities for informing himself, and he stated to the Senate that he had reason to believe that the enormous profits thus made by anticipating the Wilson tariff in 1894, those about to be made by anticipating the pending tariff, were the plum of an inner ring in the trust. This ring made these anticipatory importations in the individual names of its members, and afterwards sold them as required to the Sugar Trust at a price to which the new duty was added. Its managers, that is, were appropriating to themselves the revenue not only of the government and the people, but also of their own fellow-stockholders! An influential element of the independent press was making similar remonstrances and exposes, but it all had no more effect than the official publication by Congress in 1894 of evidence to prove that the managers of the trust were guilty of the ‘corrupt’ and ‘dangerous’ practice of making contributions to both political parties, as the report well said, ‘not for the purpose of promoting certain political principles but to establish an obligation to the giver of whichever party comes into power.’
How well the real government that was putting this sugar tariff through from its place behind the Speaker’s chair knew its business, and how little the ostensible government knew that sat in front of the chair, appeared after it was all over in the astounding fact that every effort in Congress to lessen the license of the Trust to steal and oppress had increased it. When the tariff started in the House it gave the Trust 55I cents per hundred pounds protection.
The Senate Bill ‘reformed’ this by raising it to 58 cents per hundred. This called out such a clamor of public protest that the Senatorial caucus took the matter out of the hands of the Finance Committee and prepared a new schedule which ‘reduced’ the Trust to 63 cents protection.
When finally the two Houses could not agree, and a Conference Committee had to settle it, its members ‘overthrew’ the Trust by giving it in the schedule which is now the law no less than $1.10 protection. This was probably just what it had been aiming at from the beginning, and it got it shrewdly through a series of parliamentary manoeuvres which, seemingly contesting its aggressions, gave it progressively more and more, but leaked no hint of the supreme depredation planned and did not spring it until the last minute of the session, when every chance of preventing it or even understanding it was lost in the closing whirl. During the Senate’s jockeying with the sugar schedule, the price of the sugar monopoly’s stock had been steadily rising. During these three months, from April to July, it mounted step by step from 109 to 135 on the eve of the passage of the bill.
But the morning after it rose at a bound from 135 to 145, and reached a point or two above this. In other words the value of the action of the Conference Committee and the acceptance of it by Congress was worth, Wall Street thought, no less a sum to the Sugar Trust than $7,500,000 above what it had been promised by the previous concessions, every one of which had been appraised instantly in the daily enhancement of its stock. The only tariff debate in which the members of Congress were privileged to take part was in the debate on values which was carried thus upon the stock market.
The only good times, and the only place exceptional to the prevalent dullness and stringency, were in this territory of speculation where government and business clasped hands. Brokers came on from New York and opened expensive offices in Washington where members of Congress could have the facilities of ‘special wires’ to Wall Street to buy and sell there on the strength of the votes they were about to cast. While this was going on a broker was sent to prison to luxuriate on champagne and terrapin because he had not given the investigating committee of a previous Congress the names of Senators and Representatives who had speculated through him.
The country rejoiced that so terrible a lesson was being given to wrong-doers, but the initiated saw that the imprisonment was only an advertisement to members of this Congress that they need have no fears of being betrayed if they speculated. That they did speculate, and furiously, was charged explicitly on the floors of both Houses by members who demanded investigation.
But no pressure could get this Congress to examine the charges, although the fact of this trade of members in their own votes was as well known to men of the world as any of the other forms of prostitution and gambling in the capital. The work thus begun by our National Houses of Congress, Limited, under the compulsion of an autocratic Speaker, who would let only that single job be done which the business men who had bought his party — and the other, too — by their campaign contributions wanted to have done, was finished in the same spirit by a stroke of pure revolution and appeal to physical force by the presiding officer of the Senate.
It was the afternoon of July 24, 1897, in the Senate. Nothing remained to be done but to bring the bill to a vote there. The House had passed it. It was sure of a majority in the Senate if a vote could be taken. But in the elaborate and considerate ceremonial of that body any member or number of members could by an objection prevent it from being brought to an immediate vote. The traditions of the Senate are firmly set against closure. But the presiding officer of the Senate, the Vice-President of the United States, was as equal to this emergency at the end as the Speaker of the other House had been at the beginning.
He had to have unanimous consent, by the rules of the Senate, and he knew there were Senators before him waiting eagerly and resolutely to refuse it when asked for. The due procedure is for the Vice-President to say, ‘Is there objection?’ and then pause for the Senators to speak, and if there is no objection to announce, ‘The Chair hears none,’ and enter the corresponding order on the minutes of the Senate. Many millions of dollars were waiting in Wall Street and the bank accounts of the Sugar Trust, and scores of other trusts favored by this tariff, for the consummation, by whatever manoeuvre, of the strategy of three months’ beleaguerment of the people and the government.
The Vice-President rose, and speaking suddenly and swiftly said all in one breath, ‘Is
there objection? The Chair hears none.’ He withheld the usual pause which gives the Senators ample time to make their objection. There was a storm of protests, but they were met with the suave and imperturbable ruling of the happy Vice-President that they were ‘too late.’ Unanimous consent had been given.By this act of violence, in the name of government, was carried forward the concentration of hundreds of millions more of the wealth of the common people in the hands of the millionaires.” Henry Demarest Lloyd, “The Sugar Trust and the Tarriff;” 1897, in Lords of Industry
Numero Tres—“According to librarians I have asked, approximately six thousand books have been written on the subject of television. Of these, I have been able to locate only one—a slim and superficial novel, The Day Television Died by Don McGuire—which even contemplates the idea that television could or ought to be eliminated. What makes this such a difficult notion?
In the three years this book was in preparation, at least one hundred people must have come up to me at parties or in cafés, and after expressing their support for a book which deals harshly with television would ask, ‘Are you really going to advocate its elimination?’
‘Yes,’ I would say, ‘once you really pay attention to it, you see that it’s a totally horrible technology, irredeemable; we’d all be much better off without it.’
‘I couldn’t agree with you more,’ would be the invariable response, ‘but you don’t really expect to succeed, do you?’
This last question always filled me with the most uncomfortable feeling. The people who asked it had just admitted to hating television and yet I was left with the impression that they also hated the idea that I might actually believe it possible to get rid of television. It made me seem weird to them in some way.
Well, it’s a point, I suppose. How can I expect to succeed when even those people who loathe television find the idea of eliminating it so utterly impossible? But why is it so unthinkable that we might eliminate a whole technology?
If the arguments of the preceding pages are even partially correct, then television produces such a diverse collection of dangerous effects—mental, physiological, ecological, economic, political; effects that are dangerous to the person and also to society and the planet—that it seems to me only logical to propose that such a medium should never have been introduced, or once introduced, be permitted to continue.
It is not as though Americans have no precedent for action against things that are proven dangerous. We have seen various levels of legal control put upon tobacco, saccharin, some food dyes, certain uses of polychlorinated biphenyls, aerosols, fluoroscopes and X rays to name a few. These have all been thought too dangerous to allow and yet their only negative effect is personal, they seem to cause cancer. It is at least possible, judging by some of the material in Chapter Nine on the potential effects of the narrow spectra of television light, that television also causes cancer. But is it only on the basis of cancer that we are able to think of banning something? Consider a few of television’s other effects:
Television seems to be addictive. Because of the way the visual signal is processed in the mind, it inhibits cognitive processes. Television qualifies more as an instrument of brainwashing, sleep induction, and/or hypnosis than anything that stimulates our conscious learning processes.
Television is a form of sense deprivation, causing disorientation and confusion. It leaves viewers less able to tell the real from the not real, the internal from the external, the personally experienced from the externally implanted. It disorients a sense of time, place, history and nature.
Television suppresses and replaces creative human imagery, it encourages mass passivity, and trains people to accept authority. It is an instrument of transmutation, turning people into their TV images.
By stimulating action while simultaneously suppressing it, television contributes to hyperactivity.
Television limits and confines human knowledge. It changes the way humans receive information from the world. In place of natural multidimensional information reception, it offers a very narrow-gauged sense experience, diminishing the amount and kind of information people receive. Television keeps awareness contained within its own rigid channels, a tiny fraction of the natural information field. Because of television we believe we know more, but we know less.
By unifying everyone within its framework and by centralizing experience within itself, television virtually replaces environment. It accelerates our alienation from nature and therefore accelerates the destruction of nature. It moves us farther inside an already pervasive artificial reality. It furthers the loss of personal knowledge and the gathering of all information in the hands of a techno-scientific-industrial elite.
Television technology is inherently antidemocratic. Because of its cost, the limited kind of information it can disseminate, the way it transforms the people who use it, and the fact that a few speak while millions absorb, television is suitable for use only by the most powerful corporate interests in the country. They inevitably use it to redesign human minds into a channeled, artificial, commercial form, that nicely fits the artificial environment. Television freewayizes, suburbanizes and commoditizes human beings, who are then easier to control. Meanwhile, those who control television consolidate their power.
Television aids the creation of societal conditions which produce autocracy; it also creates the appropriate mental patterns for it and simultaneously dulls all awareness that this is happening.
Taking into account all these effects and the dozens of others described in the body of this book, is it really necessary to show that television causes cancer in order to get rid of it? Is it not possible to outlaw a technology based on its political or economic or psychological effects? For if even a small portion of these arguments are valid, then in the long run they are surely more important than the fact that a percentage of people get sick. Why does banning such a technology seem bizarre?
One answer to this question lies with the absolutely erroneous assumption that technologies are “neutral,” benign instruments that may be used well or badly depending upon who controls them. Americans have not grasped the fact that many technologies determine their own use, their own effects, and even the kind of people who control them. We have not yet learned to think of technology as having ideology incorporated into its very form.
A second explanation is that once any technology of a certain scale is introduced, it effectively becomes the environment of our awareness. While we may imagine life without x-rays or aerosols, we cannot imagine life without concrete or cars or electricity. These are so ubiquitous that they literally spread themselves around our awareness. We are contained within them, and as McLuhan puts it, “the fish is the last creature which is capable of understanding the water.” So it is the most pervasive of the technologies that become invisible to us. Television is an extreme example of this pervasiveness and confinement. It becomes not only the external environment for an entire population, it also projects itself inside us. Television has so enveloped and entered us, it is hard for most of us to remember that it was scarcely more than a generation ago that there was no such thing as television, or that four million years of human evolution somehow took place without it.
A third reason we don’t believe it possible to control technological evolution is that, in fact, for most of us it is not possible to do so. The great majority of us have no say at all in choosing or controlling technologies. These choices, as I’ve described, are now solely within the hands of this same technical-scientific-
On the very rare occasions when we do perceive a technology’s negative effects, we find it takes a herculean organizing effort to do anything about it. I have given the example of the SST. Though that is a technology which is surely among the most absurd, wasteful, useless, and elitist ever invented, it took thousands of people years of effort to ban its production in this country. Despite this, foreign-made SSTs are being permitted to land in American airports.
I have also used the nuclear power example. This technology is so dangerous, not only for our own generation but for the next several thousand, that it should not be its banning that is unthinkable but its existence. Yet, just as I was completing work on this book in mid-1977, Dr. James Schlesinger of the National Energy Administration was saying, “If Californians wish to eliminate nuclear power, then we’ll have to find a way around this desire of theirs, our need for that energy is too great.”
Similar stories could be told about genetic engineering, satellite communication systems, microwave technology, neutron bombs, laser technology, centralized computer banks, and a thousand other processes, including many about which we may not even have heard.
We believe ourselves to be living in a democracy because from time to time we get to vote on candidates for public office. Yet our vote for congressperson or president means very little in the light of our lack of power over technological inventions that affect the nature of our existence more than any individual leader has ever done. Without our gaining control over technology, all notions of a democracy are a farce. If we cannot even think of abandoning a technology, or thinking of it, affect the ban, then we are trapped in a state of passivity and impotence hardly to be distinguished from living under a dictatorship. What is confusing is that our dictator is not a person. Though a handful of people most certainly benefit from and harness to their purposes these pervasive technologies, the true dictators are the technologies themselves.
David Brower, president of Friends of the Earth, has argued that unlike human beings accused of crimes, all technologies should be assumed guilty of dangerous effects until proven innocent. No new technology should ever be introduced, he has said, until its ultimate effects are known and explained to the population. This is necessary, he feels, because once it has been introduced, getting rid of any technology is practically impossible—so much of life gets reorganized around it and so much power and vested interest attaches to its continuance.
Of course what Brower envisions is itself practically impossible. Many technologies are too technically complex for the average person, like myself, not technically trained, to understand them. Also, in many instances it is impossible to identify all effects of a technology in advance of its introduction, especially those which do not lend themselves to scientific proofs and evidences. But where does this leave us? Since it is impossible fully to grasp or explain many technologies, do we then go ahead with them? Do we trust our industrial leaders? Do we merely let them shoot craps with our existence? And if we do foresee undesirable effects from a technology, what means exist for then getting rid of that technology? Are there any? And what does all of this mean to the ultimate control of our lives?
In Chapter Four I raised the possibility of an alternative way of thinking about the problem. If we believe in democratic processes, then we must also believe in resisting whatever subverts democracy. In the case of technology, we might wish to seek a line beyond which democratic control is not possible and then say that any technology which goes beyond this line is taboo. Although it might be difficult to define this line precisely, it might not be so difficult to know when some technologies are clearly over it. Any technology which by its nature encourages autocracy would surely be over such a line. Any technology that benefits only a small number of people to the physical, emotional, political, and psychological detriment of large numbers of other people would also certainly be over that line. In fact, one could make the argument that any technology whose operations and results are too complex for the majority of people to understand would also be beyond this line of democratic control.
Can we really say any longer that a reason to go ahead with a technology is that it is too complex for people to grasp, or too clumsy or difficult to dismantle? Either we believe in democratic control or we do not. If we do, then anything which is beyond such control is certainly anathema to democracy.
At the moment our only choices are personal ones. Though we may not be able to do anything whatever about genetic engineering or neutron bombs, individually we can say “no” to television. We can throw our sets in the garbage pail where they belong. But while this is an act that may be very satisfying and beneficial, in making this act we must never forget that, like choosing not to drive a car, it is no expression of democratic freedom. In democratic terms, this individual act is meaningless, as it has no effect at all upon the wider society, which continues as before. In fact, this act disconnects us from the system and leaves us less able to participate in and affect it than before. Like Huxley’s “savage,” or like today’s young people who drop out to rural farms, we find ourselves even further removed from participation in the central processes that direct our society, our culture, our politics, and our economic organization. We are struggling in a classic double bind.
Because eliminating television seems impossible, and personal withdrawal is in some ways not enough, at least at a systematic level, most of us naturally attempt to reform matters. In the case of television we have worked to improve and democratize its output.
But a central argument of this book is that television, for the most part, cannot possibly yield to reform. Its problems are inherent in the technology itself to the same extent that violence is inherent in guns.
No new age of well-meaning television executives can change what the medium does to people who watch it. Its effects on body and mind are inseparable from the viewing experience.
As for the political effects, if we switched from the commercial control of television to, say, governmental control, as in Sweden or Argentina or Russia, this would not change the essential political relationships: the unification of experience, the one speaking to the many, the inevitable training in autocracy that these conditions engender.
Similarly, no change in programming format from the present violent, antisocial tendencies to the more “prosocial” visions of educators and psychologists will mean much compared with the training in passivity, the destruction of creativity, the dulling of communicative abilities that any extended exposure to television inevitably produces. This is even assuming that the programming could be substantially changed which, as we have seen, is highly doubtful.
No influx of talented directors or writers can offset the technical limits of the medium itself. No matter who is in control, the medium remains confined to its cold, narrow culverts of hyperactive information. Nothing and no one can change this, nor can anyone change how the technical limits of television confine awareness. As the person who gazes at streams becomes streamlike, so as we watch television we inexorably evolve into creatures whose bodies and minds become television-like.
True, if we banned all advertising, that would allay many negative effects of the medium and diminish the power of the huge corporations that are re-creating life in their image.
True, if we banned all broadcast television, leaving only cable systems, that would reduce the effect of the centralization of control. More kinds of people might have access to the medium, but they would still have to submit to the dictates of the technology. As they used the machine, they would find their material and their own consciousness changing to suit the technological form. The people who use television become more like each other, the Indian who learns television is an Indian no longer.
If we reduced the number of broadcast hours per day, or the number of days per week that television is permitted to broadcast, as many countries have, that would surely be an improvement.
If we eliminated all crime shows and other sensational entertainment, it would reveal what an inherently boring medium this is, producing awareness of artificial fixation despite boredom.
If we banned all nature shows or news broadcasts from television, due to the unavoidable and very dangerous distortions and aberrations which are inherent in televising these subjects, then this would leave other, better-qualified media to report them to us. The result would be an increased awareness of far more complex, complete, and subtle information.
If we outlawed networks, there would be a new emphasis on local events, bringing us nearer to issues upon which we might have some direct personal effect.
All of these changes in television would be to the good, in my opinion, and worthy of support, but do you believe that they’d be any easier to achieve than the outright elimination of the whole technology? I don’t think so. Considering how difficult it has been merely to reduce the volume or the kind of advertising that is directed at our children, and considering the overwhelming power of the interests who control communications in this country, we might just as well put our efforts toward trying for the hole in one. It will take no greater amount of organization and it does not suffer the inhibitions of ambiguity.
Imagining a world free of television, I can envision only beneficial effects.
What is lost because we can no longer flip a switch for instant ‘entertainmen’” will be more than offset by human contact, enlivened minds and resurgence of personal investigation and activation.
What is lost because we can no longer see fuzzy and reduced versions of drama or forests will be more than offset by the actual experience of life and environment directly lived, and the resurgence of the human feeling that will accompany this.
What is lost by the unavailability of escape from what may be the painful conditions of many people’s lives, might be more than offset by the concrete realization that life has been made painful, more to some than to others, and the desire to do something about this, to attack whatever forces have conspired to make this so.
Once rid of television, our information field would instantly widen to include aspects of life which have been discarded and forgotten. Human beings would rediscover facets of experience that we’ve permitted to lie dormant.
The nature of political process would surely change, making possible not only more subtle perspectives, but also the possibility of content over style. Political and economic power, now more concentrated than ever before in American history, would surely shift somewhat in the direction of more decentralized, noncapitalistic, community-based structures.
Learning would doubtless reemerge to substitute for brainwashing. Individual knowledge and the collective knowledge of communities of friends and peers would again flower as monolithic, institutional, surrogate knowledge declined.
Overall, chances are excellent that human. beings, once outside the cloud of television images, would be happier than they have been of late, once again living in a reality which is less artificial, less imposed, and more responsive to personal action.
How to achieve the elimination of television? I certainly cannot answer that question. It is obvious, however, that the first step is for all of us to purge from our minds the idea that just because television exists, we cannot get rid of it.” Jerry Mander, “Postscript–Impossible Thoughts: Television Taboo;” from Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, 1977: https://www.ratical.org/