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Trudging through it as assigned reading for my highschool English class, I could not fathom why anyone would celebrate this blather about the antics of a bunch of silly people!

Adman Manque

Zoom ahead a decade and a half, and then rereading it, however, I was in awe— at once, continually, and sledding into that elegy of a last line— of its majesty, its poetry, its utterly American genius although indeed, it is about a bunch of silly people. Are you ready to read Four Arguments? Or have you already? Yet I do not believe that I could have read it any earlier.

Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television: Technology not neutral

Or, perhaps, I should say: would that I had read it earlier. Click here to send me an email.

It is profound. The workers' behaviour becomes subject to the machine.

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With mass production, you also accept that huge numbers of identical items will need to be efficiently distributed to huge numbers of people and that institutions such as advertising will arise to do this. One technological process cannot exist without the other, creating symbolic relationships among technologies themselves.

If you accept the existence of advertising, you accept a system designed to persuade and to dominate minds by interfering in people's thinking patterns. You also accept that the system will be used by the sorts of people who like to influence people and are good at it. No person who did not wish to dominate others would choose to use advertising, or choosing it, succeed in it.

Four Arguments for The Elimination of Television

So the basic nature of advertising and all technologies created to serve it will be consistent with this purpose, will encourage this behaviour in society, and will tend to push social evolution in this direction. In all of these instances, the basic form of the institution and the technology determines its interaction with the world, the way it will be used, the kind of people who use it, and to what ends. And so it is with television. Far from being "neutral," television itself predetermines who shall use it, how they will use it, what effects it will have on individual lives, and, if it continues to be widely used, what sorts of political forms will inevitably emerge.

It was only after a long while and many half-steps of change in viewpoint that I finally faced the fact that television is not reformable, that it must be gotten rid of totally if our society is to return to something like sane and democratic functioning. So, to argue that case, especially considering that it involves a technology accepted as readily and utterly as electric light itself, is not something that ought to be done rapidly or lightly.

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  • Nor can such a case be confined to the technology itself, as if it existed aside from a context. The first argument is theoretical and environmental. It attempts to set the framework by which we can understand television's place in modern society. Yet, this argument is not about television itself.

    Arguments for the Elimination of Television

    In fact, television will be mentioned only occasionally. It is about a process, already long underway, which has successfully redirected and confined human experience and therefore knowledge and perceived reality. We have all been moved into such a narrow and deprived channel of experience that a dangerous instrument like television can come along and seem useful, interesting, sane, and worthwhile at the same time it further boxes people into a physical and mental condition appropriate for the emergence of autocratic control.

    The second argument concerns the emergence of the controllers.

    Engulfed by the Sixties

    That television would be used and expanded by the present powers-that-be was inevitable, and should have been predictable at the outset. The technology permits of no other controllers. The third argument concerns the effects of television upon individual human bodies and minds, effects which fit the purposes of the people who control the medium. The fourth argument demonstrates that television has no democratic potential. The technology itself places absolute limits on what may pass through it. The medium, in effect, chooses its own content from a very narrow field of possibilities.

    Four Arguments For The Elimination Of Television: Conclusion

    The effect is to drastically confine all human understanding within a rigid channel. What binds the four arguments together is that they deal with aspects of television that are not reformable.

    What is revealed in the end is that there is ideology in the technology itself. To speak of television as "neutral" and therefore subject to change is as absurd as speaking of the reform of a technology such as guns.