Banning Television

May 19, 2002

by Bruce Walker

The written word and all that goes with it - sequential thinking, accurate records of events, and dispassionate review of facts - is the natural ally of conservatives. The greatest threat to conservatives - and the greatest allies of the nihilists and beasts of the left - is irrational emotion: the hypnotic sway of background music, the reiteration of crude caricature, the subliminal images created out of fancy, the repetition of lies so often that the lies become truth, and all the other ways to trick the mind and excite the heart.

It is not coincidence that Stalin and Hitler had such fascination with film, posters, thundering speeches, and what Joseph Goebbels called "The Big Lie." These liberals, just like their descendant liberals today, seek ways to create malleable "social truth" which is as infinitely plastic as human caprice.

Those vehicles of modern technology and ancient ramble-rousing which appeal to emotions and self-interest of people, rather than the minds and consciences of people, will always be with us. How many unhappy people in America today want to believe that all their failures are the result of their victimhood and the machinations of sinister figures in the shadows? How many Germans believed that about Jews? How many educated college students in backward countries believe, in spite of all evidence, that their nations’ problems are the consequence of imperialist exploitation?

Hollywood insinuates these sorts of messages in film. Popular music screams these absurdities at us. Professor dress up hate and nihilism in collegial robes and read it to us from academic papers. Our culture - the culture of the entire world - is saturated with the awful emptiness of full bellies, manufactured outrage, dulled minds, and empty souls.

Conservatives could ask government to regulate this, but that would make matters worse. The rights protected by the First Amendment should be defended on principle. Moreover, government seldom brings truth and decency into areas of public life, and is more inclined to magnify the problem through its "help."

One action would halt our slow descent into the slime of immoral modernity: Ban television for five years. If that sounds unthinkable that is because we already have fallen so far. Television is not a private medium and it does not operate in the free market (if you think so, try to broadcast your message to America without a federal license).

The freedom of speech and freedom of the press guaranteed in the First Amendment do not grant a federal license to corporations to mock, disgrace, and destroy those very values which have allowed it to exist. No one is saying Dan Rather should not be allowed to say anything he wants, only that his has no exclusive right to own part of the public bandwidth for that vile purpose.

What arguments could we make in such a cause? There is now a substantial body of evidence that links mental illness to television and depression. It is also an excellent indicator of obesity, social isolation, and will probably be connected by serious medical research to more serious health problems than any other modern invention of man. Liberals believe that violence on television causes harm to children, and there is little reason to doubt that.

People glued to television stop reading, and what laughably passes as public education today is thin broth watered down by oceans of television programs. If the constant drumbeat of liberals is for "more money for education" then why not propose the one cost-neutral action which would restore the attention of children toward books, art, writing, and other beneficial activities?

Television is more addictive than nicotine, and do not networks deliberately try to get young children, minorities, and other impressible Americans hooked as early as possible to this debilitating narcotic? Why should state attorneys general, who sue tobacco companies for subtle encouragement of children to smoke, not sue the networks for the terrible lies and great harm that these giant, federally licensed corporations have inflicted upon hundreds of millions of Americans?

The damage caused by television reaches to areas that affect the lives of all Americans and cross ideological boundaries. Terrorists use celebrity to make their murderous behavior effective (does anyone wonder whether homicide bombers would continue to kill if television stations in America and Israel utterly ignored them?) Television - the drug of instant, audiovisual coverage - is the mother’s milk of terrorists.

Television also allows terrorists to communicate, gain information, transmit information to cells, and so forth. Recall the hesitancy of American officials to release the bin Laden tapes? He and his fellow thugs doubtless have factored heavy television coverage into their jihad against civilization by using this medium at many different levels. It is no exaggeration to say that television could unwittingly trigger a horrific terrorist attack.

Shutting down television for five years would also debilitate that great boogeyman of modern liberals: campaign finance money. What is this money used for? Buying television ads! Mailed materials, radio spots, and get out the vote drives are cheap; television is very expensive. Ban television and political campaigns become inexpensive contests of facts and ideas, rather than vast and costly image blitzes.

If television was shut down for five years, people could still use the television set. Videos abound and provide a much greater range of selection than the channels provided by cable or broadcast networks. Moreover, consider how Fox News has been frozen out of so many areas, despite the obvious wish of large parts of the viewing audience to watch it. What if individuals could choose to order Fox News sent to them over the Internet (I know - not a novel idea)?

When people choose what to order, to buy, and to watch there is an element of discrimination and thought very different from channel surfing. Excellent films, wonderful entertainment programs, fine arts, and everything else of true value could be obtained by individuals making active choices in what they watch. And, of course, people could go to watch Spiderman or Lord of the Rings at the local mall cinema as well.

What would this "banning" actually mean? It would mean that the President announces that we are at war now, and one of the sacrifices of war is to give up frivolous luxuries. Therefore, for the next five years, he is ordering the federal government to pre-empt under its emergency powers all video broadcasting in America, including state and federal public television stations. He could point out that actual information needed for public safety can be quickly retrieved by portable radios.

The President should remind us that licenses are privileges granted by the people to rich corporations with whom average Americans cannot compete. The President could sweeten this by saying that the broadcast time currently granted to corporations will now be made available to individuals, churches, synagogues, social groups, and so forth in small packets with the hours and dates chosen by lot. This would allow tens of millions of Americans to express their own beliefs and values on television without the editing of huge corporations.

The President should point out that the American people would still have access to huge amounts of information and many avenues to petition their government - Internet, print newspapers, books, magazines, films, music, radio programs, speeches, letters, and so forth. Our Republic had a vigorous public debate before television, before radio, before even film. And even those rich corporations like ABC, CBS, and MSNBC which would lose a monopoly on video airways could use all these other media - the very media the rest of us have to use to get our message out - with no restrictions at all.

Moreover, the President could say that this is an experiment limited in time. If we find that it transforms our lives, then generations will be saved. If we find that it frustrates terrorists, then many lives will be saved. But if we find it does nothing good, then we will have wasted a few years out of the long lives medical science has given us. But what good would this action do?

First, it would force the 150 million or so television addicts in America to realize the depth of their electronic dependency. Unable to get an easy "fix" of West Wing or Oprah, they would be compelled to examine their lives to see what else besides television had meaning to them.

After a few weeks of withdrawal pains, they would actually discover the people living around them - spouses, parents, children, and neighbors. They would find libraries and parks, churches and neighbors. Within six months, these Americans would find themselves standing taller, thinking more clearly, and wearing smiles more easily.

Second, it would shatter the mesmerizing power of irrational liberalism. This would not end ideological debates or party differences, but it would reintroduce cogent arguments, provable facts, and statements of principles into this ongoing public debate. This would melt into nothingness - the nothingness of Clintonian politics, which are entirely polls and images and "news" but it would not prevent Democrats from presenting bright, decent men from vigorous participation in the life of American government.

Third, it would set a positive direction for the future. America could be the first nation to "kick the habit" of television. We would find meaning to life outside the "idiot box" and show the programmed populations of other modern nations just what freedom, productivity, and purpose can achieve in the world. Today, Americans waste decades of our life watching television which is intended to "entertain" us; tomorrow, we could be studying, teaching, visiting, helping, jogging, strolling, loving, praying, singing, and thanking.

This would require real guts and real tenacity, because the corporations who own our consciousness today would not willingly surrender that thought-control. But once done, Americans would feel again that most intoxicating delights of our wonderful nation: true freedom. It is worth a toss of the dice.


Bruce Walker has been a dyed in the wool conservative since, as a sixth grader, he campaigned door to door for Barry Goldwater. Bruce has had almost two hundred published articles have appeared in the Oklahoma Bar Journal, Law & Order, Legal Secretary Today, The Single Parent, Enter Stage Right, Citizen's View, The American Partisan, Port of Call, and several other professional and political periodicals.

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For more of Bruce's articles, visit his archives.

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