4 February 2006

A world without television

An economics professor writes about his family's experience of living without television. There are some real gems in this essay.
This is a particular area in which television's costs are great. Becoming informed takes some work. This traditionally involved reading books, newspapers, and magazines to develop opinions about what you believed (or didn't). Unfortunately, some of the most uninformed people I meet each day receive their news solely from television, which reduces complex social problems into emotional, highly manipulative one- or two-minute segments.

And these people vote.

The Framers of the Constitution created a decentralized republic, and explicitly not a democracy, because they knew that the latter tended toward centralization and tyranny. Even Jefferson believed that the small role actual voting would play in the new country would only be tolerable with an educated electorate. Not only would he hate television, he'd despair over a culture that promotes democracy and television as goods that must be universally available. What does it mean for freedom when so many voters are only informed to the extent possible through CNN and Fox News?

While I haven't chosen this drastic a course for my own family's television viewing practice, I completely share Mr. Westley's sentiments. As it is, I feel the monthly satellite fee (along with the high definition package, a recent upgrade purchase) is mostly wasted, as I rarely watch television, except for sporting events. It's been a conscious decision, and inertia at times propels me to switch the television on in a mindless stupor before I become cognizant of the choice, and immediately power off.

Like the author of this article, I frequently feel left out of work place (or other public settings) conversations where the topic is a popular television show. And when, on infrequent occasions, when I do take in some cable news network fare, I'm simply stunned at how stories are framed, compared to in depth reads. Sure, the visual imagery can be overpowering, and overly enhances the emotional impact for big earth shattering stories like Katrina or a terrorist strike aftermath but minus the historical background and missing the complete truth.