A Christmas Thought

It’s nearly Christmas as I’m writing this. My family wasn’t religious, what Christmas meant to me as a child was… Christmas TV! So, I want to share with you, at this time of year, something that I’ve read about TV. This is from Food of the Gods by Terence McKenna ~

ELECTRONIC DRUGS

In his science fiction novel The Man in the High Castle, Philip K Dick imagined an alternative world in which World War 2 was won by the Japanese and the Third Reich. In Dick’s fictional world, the Japanese occupation authorities introduced and legalized marijuana as one of their first moves at pacifying the population of California. Things are hardly less strange here in what conventional wisdom lightheartedly refers to as “reality”. In “this world” too, the victors introduced an all-pervasive, ultra-powerful society-shaping drug. This drug was the first of a growing group of high-technology drugs that deliver the user into an alternative reality by acting directly on the user’s sensorium, without chemicals being introduced into the nervous system. It was television. No epidemic or religious hysteria has ever moved faster or made as many converts in so short a time.

The nearest analogy to the addictive power of television and the transformation of values that is wrought in the life of the heavy user is probably heroin. Heroin flattens the image; with heroin, things are neither hot nor cold; the junkie looks out at the world certain that whatever it is, it doesn’t matter. The illusion of knowing and of control that heroin engenders is analogous to the unconsious assumption of the television consumer that what is seen is “real” somewhere in the world. In fact, what is seen are the cosmetically needed surfaces of products. Television, while chemically noninvasive, nevertheless is every bit as addictive and physiologically damaging as any other drug.

Not unlike drugs or alcohol, the television experience allows the participant to blot out the real world and enter into a pleasurable and passive mental state. The worries and anxieties of reality are as effectively deferred by becoming absorbed in a television program as by going on a “trip” induced by drugs or alcohol. And just as alcoholics are only vaguely aware of their addiction, feeling that they control their drinking more than they really do… people similarly overestimate their control over television-watching… Finally it is the adverse effect of television viewing on the lives of so many people that defines it as a serious addiction. The television habit distorts the sense of time. It renders other experiences vague and curiously unreal while taking on a greater reality for itself. It weakens relationships by reducing and sometimes eliminating normal opportunities for talking, for communicating.

THE HIDDEN PERSUADER

Most unsettling of all is this: the content of television is not a vision but a manufactured data stream that can be sanitized to “protect” or impose cultural values. Thus we are confronted with an addictive and all-pervasive drug that delivers an experience whose message is whatever those who deal the drug wish it to be. Could anything provide a more fertile ground for fostering racism and totalitarianism than this? In the United States, there are many more televisions than households, the average television set is on six hours a day, and the average person watches more than five hours a day, nearly one-third their waking time. Aware as we all are of these simple facts, we seem unable to react to their implications. Serious study of the effects of television on health and culture only began recently. Yet no drug in history has so completely succeeded in remaking in its own image the values of the culture it has infected.

Television is by nature the dominator drug par excellence.  Control of content, uniformity of content, repeatability of content make it inevitably a tool of coercion, brainwashing and manipulation.  Television induces a trance state in the viewer that is the necessary precondition for brainwashing.  As with all other drugs and technologies, television’s basic character cannot be changed; television is no more reformable than is the technology that produces automatic assault rifles…

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