Bad News

     “Previous generations looked at starlight, firelight and moon light…There are cultures that spent time gazing at the sun, but there is no culture in all of history that has spent such enormous blocks of time sitting in dark rooms looking at artificial light.”

     TV’s that watch you

     As an instrument for keeping human beings in line. The television screen that people think they are watching in the privacy of their own home, has turned out to be at least to be as powerful as the eye that George Orwell portrayed in his novel, 1984.  Orwell depicted a society of citizens perpetually bereft of privacy, due to the state’s “Big Brother” system.

     Objections have recently been raised in the French press over a new audience-measuring device that actually watches people as they watch TV.  (Many in the United States believe that devices of this type have actually been in use for several years already.)

     The new device known as Motivac, scans a room every two seconds and by means of a photonic sensor that perceives human bodies as fields of pulsating light, can literally count the number of bodies in a room.  It can distinguish men from women from children, family members from guests, and can constantly update the total number of viewers. It is able to do these things “passively”—that is without it subjects having to push buttons or mark charts at the scanner in some prescribed manner.

     According to Jean-Louis Croquet, the French marketing researcher, who is the principal developer of Motivac.  The device is also able to distinguish whether a person is really watching the television or is doing household chores or sleeping during the broadcast.

     Using regular telephone lines, Motivac monitoring devices all over France constantly transmit data to a processing center in Aix-en-Provence, where a computer spins out graphs reflecting the ebb and flow of audience share for each of the six French networks.  This information is then available to advertisers, ad agencies or television networks who subscribe to the company for instantaneous feedback on their productions.

     Motivac is able to operate with as little light as was used in older black-and-white movies on TV.  It cannot be fooled by human motion in the room.

     France is not the only country where this device is being used.  Motivac is being tested as an audience-measurement device also in Spain, Italy and Britain.  In 1989, Arbitron committed itself to paying out $20 million to acquire 36,00 of the devices for audience measurement in the United States.

     Plans are in progress for the development of a similar device, only a few inches in diameter, for use in radios.

     On the Air

     In a recent essay-writing project done by a class of nine-year-old school children, a teacher was shocked to see that eighty percent expressed a desire to kill someone for Halloween.  Studies have shown that television violence—regardless of whether it is on the news, in cartoons or in drama—makes children irrationally fearful of violence, violent themselves, and, /or coldheartedly immune to witnessing actual violence.  Extensive documentation has linked television viewing to the rate of violent crime.  Many TV programs also foster reckless driving, a lust for money, and perverse gratification of appetite.  Today’s precocious and sophisticated child actors seem completely devoid of childhood innocence.  (How could those who watch them ever understand the concept of entering the kingdom of heaven as a little child?)

     The Los Angeles Times wrote in 1988 that an average of 27 scenes per hour depict, discuss, or suggest sexual behavior on television.  In the 1987-1988 season there was a total of 65,000 such references.  Out of a given 14,000 references cited, only about 165 were balanced with any information whatsoever concerning responsibility in sexuality; the vast majority portrayed gross degradation and perversion as being normal.

     Many sociologists describe the TV habit as being similar to drug addiction, bringing fanciful escape to the lives of adventure-seeking men, restless women, and bored, neglected children.

     Public broadcasting, touted by professed Christians as being relatively “harmless,” captures the attention of its viewers for an average of five to six hours a day, according to a recent survey.  Many believe that the quality of shows on most public and cable stations can be used as educational media.  However, studies in children’s learning habits have linked sleepiness and exhaustion, short attention span, lack of persistence and perseverance in tasks, as well as an absence of interest in spiritual matters, reading, chores, creativity, conversing, and even playing—to television viewing.

     One of the inherent evils of television is the power it has over the human will.  Mere humans deceive themselves if they think they really have the power to choose what they are watching; parents are painfully naïve to believe that their youngsters have any innate strength to obey their instructions in choosing “quality” TV programs.

     Suppose your little boy was to come to you and say,  “Daddy, will you help me down to the snake pit?”

     “What for?” you might say.

     “I want to play with the snakes.”

     “No, boy!  You cannot play with those snakes.  They’re poisonous.”

     “I know, Daddy, but not all of them are poisonous, and I will play only with the good ones, I know how to be selective.”

     At this point, no sane father or mother would permit his child to make such an obviously fatal mistake.

     When you are watching TV, you are experiencing mental images. As distinguished from most sense deprivation experiments these mental images are not yours.  They are someone else’s.  Because the rest of your capacities have been subdued, and the rest of the world dimmed, these images are likely to have an extraordinary degree of influence.  Am I saying this is brainwashing or hypnosis or mind-zapping or something like it?  Well, there is no question but that someone is speaking into your mind and wants you to do something.

     “First, keep watching.

     “Second, carry the image around in your head.

     “Third, buy something.”

     “Fourth, tune in tomorrow.”

     Even with non-commercial programs or by using a simple VCR and cassette set, “once they are in your mind and stored, the images are equally valid…. Once inside your head, they all become images that you continue to carry in your memory.  They become equally real and equally not-real.

     “Our thinking processes can’t save us.  To the degree that we are thinking as we watch television, a minute degree at most, the images pass right through anyway.  They enter our brains.  They remain permanently.  We cannot tell, for sure, which images are ours and which came from distant places.  Imagination and reality have merged.  We have lost control of our images.  We have lost control of our minds.”

     This is even more dangerous when the viewer is sleepy.  Audio messages enter the sleeper’s subconscious mind and act like hypnotic suggestions.

     Clearly those who prize the liberty of conscience of themselves and their families would be well advised to avoid the use of audiovisual media in the sanctity of their homes.

Jerry Mander