From: Stuart Staniford-Chen (
Date: Fri, 11 Apr 1997 12:45:28 -0500
Sue Conklin wrote:

> I don't think bashing television is productive.

It's probably more productive than watching it :-)

> Televison is how we use it, and if we, as a society would get pro-active
> with television instead of ostrich-like, or worse yet, scared rabbit
> like, we could change that which is on television and start using it for
> what it could be.

That would be nice wouldn't it.  Unfortunately, the reality is that most  
people don't do that.  Most people spend many hours a day watching  
mind-numbing crap in an unhealthy and addictive fashion, while imbibing  
ads for three minutes out of every ten - ads which in general promote the  
worldview that happiness is obtained by consuming products.

It's my belief that television is the major reason most Americans have  
no community in their lives.  Now that I no longer live in cohousing,  
I've become much more acutely aware of how most people live.  I never see  
any of my neighbours.  When I first moved to this house, I used to make  
reasons to hang out in my front yard in the hope of bumping into some of  
them.  I've given up.  They drive up to their homes in the evening, step  
inside, and then the blue light starts flickering in the window and  
that's the last I see of them for the night.  I think television is a far  
more important factor than cars in the sterility of suburbs.

And I don't even want to get into what television has done for political  
discourse (see Neil Postman's "Amusing Ourselves to Death").

To me "Television is how we use it" is an argument akin to "Heroin is  
how we use it".  Sure, if people would just use heroin once or twice a  
year it would be a great drug.  Maybe there are a few strong minded  
people who do that, but most people who use heroin do so in a destructive  
and unhealthy way.  That's why it's an evil drug.

Similarly, there are some strong minded people who only watch the good  
stuff on PBS (and a few who insist on the same for their kids).  But the  
great bulk of people who own a TV watch it in an addictive, destructive  
way.  Sure, we can accuse all of those people of being irresponsible, but  
I prefer to blame the medium.

If a technology is such that most ordinary people will use it in a  
destructive way, the techology is evil.  Heroin is evil.  Television is  
also evil and it would be much better if it had never been invented.

Excuse my rant,


(Who doesn't own a TV, but sometimes watches it in a an addictive way  
while staying in motel rooms on business travel and feels dirty and  
degraded afterwards).

Stuart Staniford-Chen
stanifor [at]
Cohousing Network Webweaver
"Consulting Member" of N St and Marsh Commons Cohousing

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