Television is our largest obstacle to revolution
we need to destroy, take over, and claim the airwaves...no longer will money impede information
Over 98% of American's have at least one television in their home. The average amount of time per day that the television is on is 7 hours and 12 minutes per household. These numbers are extremely frightening, yet not too surprising. Television has become the true opiate of the masses in these modern times. By means of reaching an initial socialist state, as proposed by Marx and Engels, the total institution of the media, but more specifically, television, is one of the largest obstacles to overcome.
In a truly socialized state, the public replaces the private. Gone are the acres of property personally owned by the wealthy. The factories and businesses used by exploiting the poor and helpless are filled with all classes, equally working together, earning true living wages, with better working conditions. The idea of community and equality, for both genders and all races is the goal of a socialized state. Everything that is involved with television stands in direct opposition to those ideas.
The bourgeoisie, which are the wealthy and powerful, as labeled by Marx, own the airwaves. Although they are said to be public, the amount of time dedicated to public service announcements and the sort is less than 1%. There are now six major corporations which own most of the televised media, newspapers, and radio. Six corporations make up what is seen, heard, and learned on the television. Each corporation of course, does not base their investments in media outlets only. What happens more frequently is that these empires have tentacles which stretch over a vast array of businesses. For example, NBC, which broadcasts NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, is owned by General Electric (GE).
Now GE not only makes blenders, refrigerators, and other various home appliances, but also aircraft engines, medical equipment, and nuclear reactors. In 2002, General Electric made over $131 billion and is ranked fifth in the Fortune 500. This is a corporation spread out over 100 countries, not a small startup mom and pop business. From 1990 to 2002, GE had more post war contracts than any other corporation, raking in over $43 billion from the federal government. When a corporation like this owns the airwaves, especially the news broadcasts which keep the public informed about national and global issues (MSNBC - a cable news channel owned by NBC and Microsoft), a conflict will naturally occur. The public interests are lost as shareholders become the focus of attention. Money first, people last. Only when people threaten to "hit them in their wallets" and boycott purchasing certain items, does that awaken the rich.
Since money fuels capitalism, this means greed fuels capitalism. When greed becomes commonplace, ethics are usually placed upon the back burner. The marketing strategy used in commercials for television use various tactics to persuade the viewing public in a certain direction. By the age of sixty-five, the average American has seen over two million commercials. Yearly, the advertising industry spends about $40 billion. These numbers mean something monumental. Using images of beautiful women and men, objectifying both sexes to show how bad you may look in comparison, is a very effective way to sell products. The beauty supply business is a billion dollar industry, which feeds off the insecurities and doubts of the advertisement recipients. Focusing more on women, sexism runs rampant in our patriarchal society. Television does nothing to alleviate this problem. From beer commercials, to diet ads, to television shows themselves, showing beautiful women in minimal clothing or in submissive positions, only perpetuates the existing roles set in our society. To overcome sexism and inequality we must no longer give in to the ideas of "beauty" as sold to us by the glow box. By refusing to invest in companies which either use sexist ads, or base their existence on the vulnerability of the self-concept, you weaken their empire. As Engels discusses in his writings on feminism, there is a deep seeded interest in keeping women as the property of men. When this is addressed and destroyed only then will equality among the sexes begin.
Using physicality as a manipulative device for selling products is just one aspect of the terrors of advertising. Marketing to children not only wasteful plastic toys but also sugar soaked foods is another towering empire. Billions of dollars alone are spent advertising directly towards children, with startling results. The "Nag Factor" is the degree at which parents buy something based upon being nagged by their child. Reports show that over $10 billion was spent in food and drinks alone in 2003 due to the nagging of children. Marketers realize this and now have started addressing the youngest children to new products. This leads to a world where even infants can consume. A bright end is not in sight when the children are practically given credit lines for purchasing. Advertising in the schools reaches beyond the cafeteria's fast food brand name buffet, Channel One advertises to children as they watch televisions in the classrooms. All this does is reinforce the ideas of working your life away for worthless material possessions, possessions that eventually, end up owning the purchaser.
Consumption of any product can lead to debt, which can force one towards more labor, which can lead to a need for a break. Often truly rejuvenating breaks are few and far between in this modern work age, so while unwinding after a hard day's work, the television is there, ready to assist, ready to keep your doubts alive, and your pockets empty.
When not selling actual products, people are then put on the selling block on television.
This year is a perfect example of the way television distorts, deceives, and takes advantage of the lack of public knowledge in regards to politics. "Approved messages" are flying all over the airwaves for both corporately owned puppets, as the viewers are never given any real information about policies or plans. The amount of money put into this election year is disgusting, and it's proving to be the way to go, as John Kerry was reluctant to take the Democratic bid for presidency in order to raise even more money. It becomes no longer about politics, but who can buy the most votes.
Democracy is thrown out the window and is replaced with a pseudo government fueled not by the public interest but by invested interests from the money wielding elite. For information, the people, are given the Fox News Channel (FNC), which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's mega-empire, the News Corporation. Murdoch readily admits to being an ultra conservative man. His company reaches into sixty-three channels on the television, along with three major motion picture studios. Although most TV channels aren't political, the cable based FNC is. What has occurred is that the FNC has become the mouthpiece for the White House, the Pentagon, and the Republican party, while attempting to sell itself as "fair and balanced." Viewers are ratings, ratings are votes, nowhere are the regular citizens recognized as needing information. While reporting controversial (a.k.a. dangerous for conservatives) material, critical analysis is often missing, while debates are for the same side of an argument. This type of reporting isn't exclusive to Fox, it's just much more obvious on Fox. The public's lack of knowledge over certain issues is a direct result of corporate owned media giants battling it out with others for the most ratings, which leads to the most money. Infotainment replaces information and once again, capitalism, with the great aid of television, keeps the people either subdued, ignorant, or bored with the goings on in the nation's capital and overseas.
What must be done in order to develop public interest in politics, which will lead to change all throughout the globe, is to abolish privately owned news stations. Marx wanted the abolition of private property, thus the televised news must also fit into this category for change to occur. As long as people are using the television for a source of information, there must be accountability for reporting. When a private company owns the airwaves and has no one to answer to, truth and information become neglected.
Looking beyond the actual content on the television, one must also examine the act of watching the screen. The time consuming act itself, is a "mediated quasi-interaction" as coined by John Thompson, meaning that it is a one-way monologue from the tube to the viewer. The act of watching TV is an act consumption in its own right, never giving anything back. Binge watching of the television not only leads to an unquestioning mind, as conversations themselves tend to be eliminated, but also to a widespread culture of similar minds. By sitting inside the house, even with friends, gathered around a television, a loss of community exists. Walk down a street right after dusk and observe the blue lights illuminating an otherwise dark home. People aren't motivated to organize, discuss, or even consider social change or pressing topics. There is a lot more information beyond the sixty minutes of news (including commercials, sports, weather and offbeat) you are given every day, but without real communication, it is lost.
The current state of television directly obstructs social gatherings and the momentum needed for a revolution to occur. Marx believed that eventually people would rise up and no longer stand for the inequalities present in a capitalist system. He felt that religion was the opiate which kept the people in line, ignoring the real world's injustices in return for a pleasant afterlife. I believe television has replaced religion as the opiate of the people. Never seeing the big picture of society and all that is wrong with the world, where it's going and who it's affecting, people are instead being given new stories everyday with little or no follow ups. Emotional sagas may drag out a bit longer only until the made-for-TV show emerges. By not seeing how bad things have become, and focusing the televised attention upon the season finale of Survivor All-Stars , the masses become blinded, complicit, sheep, perfect for an unjust society.
Whether it is the commercials promoting insecurities and consumption, to nightly broadcasts filtering and spinning information, to the half dozen mega-media corporations owning most outlets of news, the content alone is enough to keep a population distracted. Taking a step back even further and examining the act of watching television, it is clear that changes need to occur in order to awaken and put life back into the people themselves.
Capitalism's biggest threat is loss of profit. By removing yourself from the economy where television is concerned as the first step, you will start to become more free. When advertising executives realize that insecurity and meaningless possessions aren't selling, they will be forced to look elsewhere. When they learn that public related issues without commercial interruption is what is desired, they will lose their minds, their jobs, and their power. As a national movement occurs to eliminate the corporate run airwaves, one must wonder how such a story would be covered by the reporters themselves. Publicly run television is a healthier solution for direct information, a truer democracy, and equality amongst a diverse population. By not limiting access to the airwaves to just those with the resources, wealth, and power, the information and progression towards a socialized state would start to gain momentum.
On the road to a socialized and equal state, which would eventually lead to a community style of living, as Marx proposed, there will be many obstacles. If television as it exists today is eliminated, it would have to be replaced with a publicly run medium. The settings for this refreshed medium would be too difficult to envision at this time. One could also question what other news sources should be held accountable in reporting, as radio and newsprint have yet to be addressed. Ideas for such questions would lead to an interesting discussion, one which have to be had far away from the television set.
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