TV Alters Brainwaves (!)

From: Michael Ballard <>
Subject: Kill Ugly Television (fwd)

Edinburgh; AK Press, 1994
ISBN 1873176910 (pbk);

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If you're like me, you wonder a lot about how it is that we seem to be collectively transforming ourselves from those lovable nattering nabobs of negativism into nations of nitwits and dittoheads.  After trading our hours for a handful of dimes, most of us like to go home, kick back, relax and watch some TV. Television has become the drug of choice among the silent majority, although most do not see viewing the vidi-screen as an addiction. Perhaps the silence of the working class and its perceived acceptance of the dominant paradigm have a lot to do with the fact that most of their political, moral and ethical convictions are transmitted to them along with their culture via commodified, televised imagery. At least, that seems to be the underlying theme of TEST CARD F: Television, Mythinformation and Social Control.

"How can TV silence me?" , you say.  "After all, I control it with my Captain Picard like hand held decoder and channel changing remote, right?" Right.  A judicious use of the mute button is in your interest; but look around you.  Observe how it is that the electric eye peering out of that rotten tube stays on for so many hours of your waking free time and that of your friends, plus your kids'.  Try turning it off for extended periods and experience the anxiety of withdrawal; that nervous anticipation surrounded by a quiet, unflickered environment.  Think about it.  If the TV is doing most of the talking in your living room, bedroom etc. then you probably aren't too close to planning, "the historic mission of the working class" or really anything much of importance at all. 

As the authors (who choose to remain anonymous) of TEST CARD F point out, TV is owned to sell and like addictive drugs in general, this soma of our brave new world has a high price, namely our heads.  It is market share which drives the owners of the television programs to put their trash in your living spaces; for market share largely determines the price of the airtime they sell to advertisers.  Fear of losing this market share leads to an homogenization of programming.  The path struck out by capitalist media competition leads directly to the flatlands of mediocrity.  "The pressure to maximize audiences and revenue results in the avoidance of anything that might be contentious.  Production and commission is based instead on the familiar formats of what has previously successfully kept us watching.  Getting the bodies sat in front of the box for as long as possible is what counts:  QUALITY of attention is of little importance."

The immediacy of TV, its fast paced, fire like nature, keep us glued like moths to the screen.  Our brains on television put us, for all intents and purposes, in a virtual land of the living dead.  It's not just the commodification of the electric spectacle which cheapens our consciousness; the phenomenon of mental numbing appears to be deeply embedded in the technology itself.
"The 'Mulholland' experiment in the early 70's wired ten kids to electroencephalograph (EEG) machines (which measure brain wave activity) and sat them down in front of their chosen favourite programmes.  He expected to see plenty of fast beta waves, which would indicate that they were actively responding to something (as is produced when reading or during conservation); instead all he could find were the slower alpha waves of the kind found when a person is in a coma or put in a trance where the subject is not interacting with the outside world at all."

More than providing us with an analysis which links the dumbing down of the working class and its children by these electronic drug dealers, TEST CARD F also hammers away at the notion, popular among a semi-conscious left, that if it can somehow manipulate its collective mug in front of the TV camera, it'll be able to sway an otherwise torpid proletariat to vigorous anti-capitalist activity.  Nothing could be further from the truth, according to TEST CARD F's authors.  

When was the last time you seized the moment after watching something on TV, short of breaking out your credit card to help the Mobil Corporation sponsor "Masterpiece Theatre" on the so-called Public Broadcasting System?  To attempt to create a show for the televendors is to fall into the trap of becoming mere court jesters of capital as opposed to its grave diggers.  Much of the left wastes its time mired in schemes from community access television, to parade monitoring at anti-war marches in vain attempts to gain respectability and their own "market share".  In reality, they become more fertilizer for the latest spin on the opiate of the people.

Instead of being concerned about how to get on television and then going home to watch to see whether one has made the 11 o'clock newscasts, the authors suggest that it would be more effective to engage in the class struggle any which way you can without regard to how or even whether it will play in the televised images being beamed to the comatose of Peoria.
As the authors point out, "All news coverage is encoded to enforce the myth that we live in a society where the bond that unites the worker and the boss is an (sic) national economic interest, stronger than the divide between labour and capital."  Thus, the working class is reduced to the wanking class in front of the boob-tube.

Most of what anybody sees on TV is soon forgotten anyway; in fact, practically as soon as the next image is televised for consumption.  It's form over content here, image over reality.  The result of spending so much of our time in TV's embrace is not a persistence of memory; but rather a vacant stare and at "best" the active repetition of political choices historically proven to have been mistakes e.g. voting for the major parties, doing nothing, cynically doing nothing and so forth and so on.

TEST CARD F has no copyright, an interesting political comment in itself.  It comes out of the Institute of Social Disengineering at 21 Cave St. Oxford in the UK.  The Institute welcomes outside agitators:
FAX: 0865 790673.