TV Alters Brainwaves (!)

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

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

Orders in the UK to
AK Press 22 Lutton Place, Edinburgh EH* 9PE, Scotland, UK
3.95 pounds + 10% handling
Orders in the USA to
AK Press, POB 40682, San Francisco, CA 94140-0682
$6.00 +$2.00 shipping

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.