I recently spent a month recovering from the flu. It was the kind of flu that didn't allow me to do much for a couple weeks except mindless crap. Seriously, it hurt to think and it wore me out to do anything requiring more than minimal effort. I tried reading but couldn't focus. I tried to work, but after trying to put up one design several different times only to accidentally delete an hours worth of work by clicking the wrong key, I gave up. I turned to the old standby--games. I spent a couple days making the world safe from angry birds, but even that required more energy than I had , so I turned to television. Specifically, mindless tedious stupefying television, the kind most of America feeds on for most of their waking hours when they're not working.
I'm not an anti-television snob. There's some excellent shows that I usually wait until they come out on Netflix to watch, and I really am an Amazing Race junkie. But that's about it. I've never watched many of the popular culture shows. I tried, I really did, but in the end they were about not every interesting people doing not very interesting things. And I may be old, but not old enough to get my news from television actors pretending to be journalists. I'd rather read blogs online from many different views to form an opinion, rather than have it fed to me by actors who wouldn't know a real news story if it kicked them in their partisan asses.
What I did find as I flipped from channel to channel is that American television is like the worst little inbred community of stupid people on the planet. I've lived in small towns and the news is basically the same kind of tedious gossip that passes for conversation in those horrid little communities. No one ever talks about ideas. They talk about other people. No one ever talks about the problems of the world. They talk about who's bedding whom and whose divorce is that week's meat to rip apart and feed to the hogs. No one ever talks about solutions to world hunger, the destruction of the planet, how to make a better world. They gossip instead. They say mean and horrible things about people they don't even know. They form sides. They create a world of us and them. The news on television has become the worst of these things, the worst of these people, the meanest and most shallow excuse for existence imaginable.
At first, just as I felt when exposed to this behavior in small communities populated with small-minded idiots, I was stunned that people could live this way, that they could get information this way, that they could make real life choices based on being fed pure biased bullshit.
And then I began to understand it was all deliberate. Television feeds into the small minded idiots in these communities. It creates low information voters. It creates people who are always afraid of some boogy man or woman of the week. It makes it seem normal to have an us and them world where everything is always one person's fault, one ethnic group's fault, one country's fault. It creates the kind of fear that discourages independent thinking for herd behavior. Television tells you different people are bad. Different ideas are bad. Truth is bad.
Television is called programming for a reason. It doesn't want you to think or discuss real ideas. It wants you to gossip about each other. It wants you to always blame someone else for problems you create yourself. It wants you to live in fear and in mistrust and to always always think just like everyone else. And to severely punish those who are not like you.
And in between, they want to sell you shit. Lots of shit. Stupid shit designed just for people who no longer are able to think for themselves. Step right up, and please do use your neighbor's back to step on as you climb up the Randian ladder of disdain and privilege, because you're special and deserve to buy all the crap they're selling you.