Although initially considered a luxury, television spread rapidly around the world. Through government control, it fosters education, development, and propaganda. Through commercial control, it creates entertainment, public opinion, and new cultural values.
That said we emerge into an unknown where we need to remember that the media does not determine what we think; but it does determine what we think about.1 Nevertheless is that enough to influence our values or do we form our own opinions about what we see.
The most memorable thing I have ever seen on TV was September 11, 2001. That will probably be the most memorable thing I will ever see as will anyone in the last century, maybe even more memorable than seeing the moon walk or JFK’s assassination. This image and any others you remember are dramatic, television overwhelms us with significance via our observances. Had we never saw the Twin Towers demise right before our eyes we might not have felt the fear and then the hatred that we all shared. As the entire world held their breath we were united, everyone, everywhere watched the same thing and it was like we lived through it together. A vision stays in a persons mind if it invokes emotion, without persuasion you will not invoke emotion. To sit on the fence regarding an issue or controversy is not stirring, it is monotonous. People enjoy debate and they like to see justice done, if you have no stand then there is no justice to be done.
Reporters take a stance on one side or the other, there is always an underlying tone in their voice or a tendency to sympathize one way or the other. So then how does television shape our perceptions of the world? We see what television stations want us to see, and we feel how they want us to feel, not because they tell us but because they colour it in a way that we have to.
Television connects us to history, it makes events memorable and it presents a perspective. If we were to watch a Japanese documentary regarding WWII and the bombing of Pearl Harbour it may not seem like such an injustice, once you are presented with an alternative perception you might see things differently.
What then determines what you see on television, and what are the goals of the industries that determine the programs and commercials, also how do their goals influence your relationship to the world around you?
When Dan Quayle remarked in a speech that the example of Murphy Brown, a TV character, choosing to have a baby as a single mother was not the kind of message that should be sent to our children and teens, he was lambasted by the liberals in the press and in Hollywood. Cast members of the “Murphy Brown” show did the media blitz, publicly laughing at Quayle for even suggesting that what people saw a fictitious TV character do would somehow influence them.
“It’s only a TV show.”
Fast forward to one year later. Time magazine, in an article in their Father’s Day issue finally admitted, that “maybe” Dan was right; a family with a father and a mother both involved in the rearing of their children is not simply another choice, but a better one. Studies bear this out time after time. And while the substance of his remarks were vindicated, Quayle’s shot at television is still regarded by liberals as laughable because, after all,
“It’s only a TV show.”
Neilson Media Research says that the average person watches TV 28 hours a week, or 4 hours a day. There is some television watching going on somewhere in the average household for 7 hours and 12 minute a day. How can this much TV viewing, this much influx of ideas and values, not have an influence?
When liberals aren’t talking about how TV doesn’t influence, they inadvertently make a good case for how TV does influence society when they talk about other topics. Hillary Clinton has referred to the phenomenon known as the Big Lie; if you hear something told to you enough times over a long enough period of time, especially without much dissent, you start tending to believe it. TV is rife with liberal values, from premarital sex and sex outside of marriage, to the “evils” of authority, to the radical feminist agenda. They are presented as good and positive over and over again, while counter examples are few and far between. Hillary was attacking conservative radio when she mentioned the Big Lie, and how it’s influence can be far-reaching. I wonder why that same influence somehow doesn’t extend to liberal television.
It was Al Gore who praised the show “Ellen” for “forcing” American society to begin to accept homosexual behaviour. If “it’s only a TV show”, then this statement by Gore and the praise lavished upon Ellen Degeneres by Hollywood should be pointless, and they of all people would supposedly know better. It’s Hollywood, after all, that claims that a simple TV show couldn’t change anyone’s mind. But when you look at what they do instead of what they say, their actions speak volumes: Television influences, and the liberals in Hollywood are using it to it’s full potential.
And if you still think television has no influence on it’s viewers, ask an advertising executive how much a minute of commercial time goes for during the Super Bowl, and why someone would pay those exorbitant amounts for time on a medium that doesn’t influence people. And ask why, if TV has no influence on it’s viewer, that 15 minutes of every hour of TV is saturated with commercials, some as short as 15 seconds, and some that simply have 3 frogs burping out “Bud”-“weis”-“er”. If they have influence, the other 45 minutes of programming certainly have far more.
How does the experience of watching television influence a child’s development? This question haunts parents and educators because television is universal in our culture, and its effects are powerful.
“…we now have evidence that habitual viewing (of television) can affect a young person’s basic outlook and sensibilities, predisposition to violence and hyperactivity, IQ, reading ability, imagination, play, language patterns, critical thinking, self-image, perception of others, and values in general. Further, habitual TV viewing can affect the physical self as it can alter brain waves, reduce critical eye movements, immobilize the hands and body, and undermine nutrition and eating habits. ” 2
Television images teach values and behaviour patterns, and children accept television characters as models for their own attitudes and actions. Children begin to judge their own meaning, dignity, and worth in comparison with these portrayals. What is television teaching children about family relationships, sexuality, violence, and racial groups, for example? And what are they teaching children about conflict and difficulty? What does it do to children who become conditioned to seeing problems resolved in 30 or 60 minutes? Do they not develop a low tolerance for the frustrations involved in solving problems of any real stature. As the traditional opportunities for expressing love within the family are being consumed by the television, children are losing the opportunity to explore and develop human relationships and values. Children are no longer learning through love expressed in everyday participation in family life so that they can grow to understand what the gift of human life truly is.
So in the end how do we think of television? It has opened us up to all sorts of places and cultures. It entertains us, and it is a common community that we share with millions of others, when we are so inclined to participate. I believe that overall it is more detrimental to society than productive. It’s made us soft and lazy, unable to create our own forms of entertainment. What passes for news is a dangerous presentment of the world, skewed to make us think it’s a grievous, threatening, insane, and horrible place. It brings out the worst in us, as it forces us to become viewers in what amounts to little more than a nightly body count of murders and horrific accidents, we’re just too overwhelmed. Television has inevitably replaced life with lifestyle.