Idiot Box

With its every frantic pop, bleat and bang, television proclaims itself to be the wellspring of all things shiny and new. But in reality it’s the primary tool of the old paradigm.

At this point in history the video screen has replaced institutionalized religion as the single most powerful hypnotic in the world. In the USA it serves as an efficient delivery system for the interests of a crumbling status quo, disseminating values that represent the very worst of the era now in its last gasp. (All processes in existence, from the 2,000-year-long Age of Pisces to the Republican Party, are liable to turn ugly just before they die).

In the chart of the USA, the planet Pluto (power) is in the 2nd house (money). By transit Pluto is opposite America’s Venus and Jupiter right now, trying to put out of its misery the over-the-top consumerism that has made the American system so sick. Meanwhile, the behemoth telecommunications industry (Mercury in the US 8th house, opposite Pluto) chugs along, far too powerful and bloated to peter out gracefully.

I think everyone who watches TV must realize that its raison-d’etre is not the programs but the ads. But I wonder how much the average viewer knows about the underlying economics of the industry. Many probably believe that the hundreds of channels at their disposal bestow oodles of choice, and that the many stations on offer keep each other honest. But the titans of this industry number only about four, total; they’ve parceled out consumer niches amongst themselves so as to avoid competing with each other; and they are clearly not vying for the crown of journalistic excellence.

Meanwhile, if the various brain-dead pundits on display are competing for anything it must be vacuity and disingenuousness.

The Super Conjunction of 2009 will go down in history as exposing an orgy of cultural ignorance and myopia. Regional insularity, nationalistic pride and cheap emotion all play a role, and the corporate media does its best to exploit them all. Consciousness-seekers who want to keep their brains intact amidst the ditz blitz of pop culture need to be skeptical of what gets shown on TV both in content and in form. Even dead-serious subjects like tragedy and racism are exploited for hot-button value by the corporate news.

Consider the press conference Obama gave on health care reform, on July 22nd — hours after the total eclipse. The scandalous state of American health care is the issue of the year, and one that the powers-that-be have a vested interest in people not thinking about too carefully. As the conference was wrapping up, Obama fielded a question about the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates in Cambridge; realistically speculating that the local cops had acted “stupidly.” One could almost feel the shock in the air turn into glee as the newsfolk in the room realized what they’d use for the next day’s lead story. Not for the sake of parsing in any in-depth way Gates’ humiliation, or the systematic racial profiling behind it; but because the arrest was sexy by the standards of television news. Whereas the plutocratic exploitation of a populace by the insurance industry isn’t.

If offered up as a quick trigger for reactive mass feeling, racism will be mentioned on the news. Otherwise it remains unnamed.

All of the mass media are guilty of this bias. Where I live, the newspaper devoted many column inches and several days covering a DUI crash involving three white teenagers on a recent Saturday night. Reporters investigated whether the deceased were or weren’t wearing seat belts, photos were taken of the balloons left as sidewalk memorials, and officials dispatched grief counselors to the kids’ high schools.

Also that week, hidden in the back pages of the paper was a report that a dozen or so nameless souls, probably illegal immigrants, had died in a remote area of Arizona under the waning Solstice Moon. The number of dead was unspecified. Apparently no teddy bears were left at the crash site. There was no mention of seat belts. We were told that the corpses were discovered “stacked like firewood” in the back of the trafficker’s van.

But because it is the most manipulative medium — and the most voraciously consumed — television is the worst offender. If we choose to get our information from TV, we need to ask ourselves why the idiot box deems certain topics newsworthy; whose point of view is represented in those choices; and why the topics are being framed the way they are. Or, we could skip the whole game and throw the TV in the dump.

Of course, that would have its perils too; given how toxic these electronics-stuffed plastic boxes and radiation-oozing screens are to the environment. But even this issue — that of TV-as-poisonous-object — could be resolved very quickly, if the manufacturing sector would listen to its forward-thinking scientists.

If the world is to survive, the principle of sustainability will have to change the way things are done in every nook and cranny of consumer society. And the wonderful thing about thinking like a revolutionary, which is becoming more and more of an option as Saturn and Uranus oppose each other in the sky, is that one iconoclastic solution tends to flow right into the next.

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Jessica Murray
Jessica Murray

Joseph,Even the beautiful title of the work you cite -- The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light -- expresses Mr Thompson's point. And it reminds us that "ugliness" is just a form of intensity, to which the perceiver attaches value judgment. It strikes me that over-simplification is another thing that can take over when entities are dying: groups in peril start getting simplistic and dumbed-down. But this, too, could be expressed either with consciousness (paring down to the genuine essentials of their tenets) or lack of consciousness (e.g. the GOP reducing everything to black-&-white judgments).Thank you so much for this.Jessica

Joseph
Joseph

Jessica -- about your parenthetical comment, (All processes in existence, from the 2,000-year-long Age of Pisces to the Republican Party, are liable to turn ugly just before they die)...this is William Irwin Thompson in "The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light" (1981): "Every form of culture, in its vanishing, receives it most elaborate and intense expression."Seen this way, these are hopeful times, indeed. Once again, you nail it all. More, more. Joseph

Jessica Murray
Jessica Murray

Friends,Wheez, disgust and disgrace are apt words. As we keep addressing the tasks upon us in word, deed and thought, we're doing all we can do -- and that's everything. As Anonymous #2 says, there is no separation from the process of Life, aka Natural Law; and if we each live thru our chart, the forces of obstruction will die a natural death. /I agree with Anonymous #1 that there is excellent stuff on TV, too. But when my children were young I realized that fighting to confine our video hours to the good stuff would take all my energy. As in AA, it was easier to go all the way and just ditch the set altogether. /I understand, mpk, that Big Pharma has a huge presence on the tube now which is especially appalling because of the assumption it instills, as you say, that drugging the self is normal./Anne, welcome.As the Eclipse builds over head,blessed be.Jessica

m.p.k
m.p.k

One thing I've noticed is how TV promotes the idea that Big Pharma is indispensable to human health. It's a huge agenda. I have never owned a television and have basically lived the last 17 years without one in my residence.

Anne Whitaker
Anne Whitaker

HI Jessicaalthough I have been reading your aticles in TMA for some time, this is my first visit to your blog and I like very much what you say and the pungency with which you say it. Personally, I now ration my own TV viewing to nature programmes (whilst we still have nature to look at!) and not much else. I despise most of it.I'd like to add your blog to my blogroll.May I do that?Best wishesAnne W

Anonymous
Anonymous

We can do anything. I am a son of god and live by the laws of creation, I bow to no one much less to those taken from the heart. I am free and as love I live where the extraordinary is possible at one with all things. I have no fear. My spirit broken, my face crushed into the ground. Eyes picked me up when I saw beyond a face, a child in an older man's body.There is no separation from the process of life.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Great post - there is good stuff on television, very creative minds at work, but as you point out, the lowest common denominator is awful. And the choices about what is newsworthy are really disturbing, when one celebrity story dominates the news for days and weeks while other important stories are ignored.

wheezyzorg
wheezyzorg

While my viola gently weeps. Disgust and disgrace are the adjectives that come to mind when considering the media slime oozing from our teevees. It seems as if the elites would rather commit suicide by planetary destruction than embrace a newer, saner paradigm of love, light, peace, progress, and freedom. Even without their obstruction, the tasks in front of us are monumental to comtemplate and go begging to be truly addressed even in word, much less, deed.