Out of morbid curiosity, I have been watching some conspiracy theory-type films and documentaries on Netflix lately. Some of it is peculiar, such as one program that proclaimed we never landed on the moon and it was a big hoax because it really was just that important to beat the Russians during the Cold War. Then there was another program that proclaimed we did, in fact, land on the moon. Beyond that- we landed several times since the last known mission of Apollo 17. We have even been to the Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd, FTW). The reason? Nothing short of exploration of ancient (or current) alien colonies, technology, and the harvesting of a super-fuel known as helium 3.
That last one… Well, I filed that under comedy.
But then there was one film, “Zeitgeist,” that had a few parts that kept my interest much longer than anticipated.
Note: I do not wear tinfoil hats and I do not believe most of what I see on tv… This post is equally as serious as it is intended to be pun and written with an odd sense of humor.
Ok, so Zeitgeist played on my emotions a bit because I share the feeling that the 24 hour news networks are counterproductive towards living a normal, intelligent life. One of the ways they expressed that opinion was to include clips from the movie “Network” from 1976. Have you seen this movie? This is now high on my list of films to see! It will not be full of cool CGI or with great surround sound… No, instead, this low budget film was made in the same way actors on stage create art: By acting.
In one scene, you see the protagonist on a stage with the tv cameras tuned on him and the live audience in the background- no different than if you were to go see a late show live today. In the scene, the protagonist is pacing feverishly, his suit is disheveled, and he has a sweaty face with wide eyes that dart all around the room. You can sense this man has a lot of ideas in his head that are flying around at ludicrous speed and he is struggling to get these ideas out to the audience in a manner that is coherent, persuasive, and relatable. Here is a rough quote of what he said: (tube refers to television)
We’re in a lot of trouble!
…Because you people, and 62 million other Americans, are watching me right now.
…Because less than 3% of you people read books! And less than 15% of you people read a newspaper!
…Because the only truth you know is what you get over this tube! [As he points to the television cameras]
Right now there is an entire generation who doesn’t know anything that did not come out of this tube.
This tube is the new gospel.
This tube can make or break presidents, popes, and prime ministers.
This tube is the most awesome force in the whole goddamn world!
…And woe is us if it falls into the hands of the wrong people.
…And when the largest company in the world controls the largest goddamn propaganda force in the world… Who knows what shit they will peddle as the truth on their network?!
. . .
So you listen to me… television is not the truth. Television is an amusement park. Television is a carnival.
It is a traveling group of acrobats, dancers, singers… story tellers.
…But you watch so much of it that you begin to believe the actors are real life and your life is the stage. But I’m here to tell you… WE are the actors and YOU are the real world!
That scene made the two hour program very much worthwhile to me. My grandfather said that the only thing in the world that changes are names and dates- the events remain the same. He cited examples but that statement is not something a child can understand completely. But I am glad he told me that and I am glad I retained it because that statement helped mold my critical thinking mind into the way it is today. I am very much a skeptic to anything coined as “new and improved,” although, I am also subject to missteps and failure to observe the fallacies when presented.
But using his proclamation and the script above… We much recognize that we truly are walking into a world as described by the film and by a more dramatic source: George Orwell’s “1984.”
The line about how we have a generation that knows nothing other than what they saw on television was the most troubling for me. Have any of you contemplated that before? It is such a simple statement but geez, it is also so true!
Why is it troubling?
I have a few reservations with television. Namely, a television removes the individual’s ability to think creatively and critically the way a book allows. A book uses words and the mind translates those words into sounds and visual depictions in the mind. Additionally, reading at a proper pace allows the mind to absorb, contemplate, consider, understand, and even question the story as it progresses. Television removes all of that. A movie reduces a week’s worth of reading several hundred pages of a story over several separated reading sessions into one and a half to two hours worth of time. Compression rarely helps anything worthwhile. Television tells you what something looks like, what it sounds like, and what is thought by the characters. It happens at twenty four frames per second, which is fast enough to prevent you from having any critical thought as each point is quickly overwritten by the next frame, scene, and act.
A book does to the mind what climbing several flights of stairs does to the body. Television is taking the escalator. We still reach the end, but it is just not helping our health and well-being to be carried everywhere.
And the news is even worse! A written news article, while it may not be accurate, will be much closer to complete than anything we witness on television. The news networks operate through sound bites- never complete thoughts. Speeches are chopped up until they are merely a few seconds long. Basically: whatever you can say before you inhale your next breath… That might the entirety of your quote that will be played and replayed hour after hour.
Can you have an entire rational thought, along with citing sources and providing background information to backup your claims, in the few seconds of speech you can utter before taking your next breath? I cannot.
Television news is one hundred percent the same as picking up a newspaper and reading only the headlines. That is just unintelligent.
Really though, all that aside, it would be scary to find out just how much of our current generation’s thought process is built up solely upon knowledge they learned from this poor source. So scary that I care not to research the point.
The other thing about television media and online media is that it plays directly into the hand of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth:
Is it impossible to consider that the online headlines, stories, and facts in any news article online or on television can change from one reading to the next? If questioned, they will say it is no different than a retraction or edit to further accuracy… But is it so hard to believe it could be used to remove accuracy?
Printed media and books are a permanent record. There is value in that. You have your own copy of who said what and when. On television… Unless you are diligently recording every newscast, you will never know. And that is exactly what happened in 1984: Yesterday: “We are at war with Eurasia, and we have always been at war with Eurasia. Eastasia is our ally, just as they have always been our ally.” Today: “We are at war with Eastasia, and we have always been at war with Eastasia. Eurasia is our ally, just as they have always been our ally.”
Side by side, it is easy to see the problem. In 1984, they worked diligently to remove all printed record of the lies before issuing the “new” historical record. We do the same thing today by running the newspapers out of business and replacing it with the “convenience” of the Internet. Websites will change without your permission and it takes actual work to find the original articles… And that work is encroaching closer and closer to the realm of impossibilities as technology advances.
Case in point: Hillary Clinton’s e-mail. If those were pen and paper letters, you could be damn sure the recipients would have retained most, if not all, the ones that seemed particularly troubling. With e-mail, it evaporates in the same way the old historical record evaporated in “1984.”
We’re in a lot of trouble!