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Monday, April 25, 2005

15] Turn off That TV!

Turn off your TV!
Azly Rahman
Apr 25, 05 12:18pm


We are watching too much TV. We have way too many channels that disseminate a variety of propaganda, sell dreams and illusions, create false consciousness, discuss non-issues, fragment the self, and numb our creative and critical senses.

Our children are bombarded with thousands of images daily as they sit passively in front of the television set. Their brain cells are slowly being turned into miniature advertising billboards.

These billboards become field of dreams and consciousness, turning the self into whatever the producers of propaganda wish them to turn into. These brain cells are conditioned by the nano-technology of smart TV programming.

TV is a powerful weapon of mass deception. TV is the mother of inner battles in all human beings. It is slowly killing the mental capacity of our children to sustain reading and to engage in critical reflection. An uncritical mind is a fertile ground for mental colonisation. A mind, essentially, is a terrible thing to waste.

Print and broadcast media are powerful tools of propaganda. While many Malaysian parents struggle to have their children read well so that they may not be perpetually confused and brain dead, TV is rigorously producing more and more programmes that will make children have four eyes and no mouth. Their mind cannot sustain good reading.

How many TV channels are there in Malaysia to help baby-sit the children? How many hundreds of programmes are we watching weekly to turn us into scatterbrained people?

How many different lifestyles of the rich and famous are we exposed to, so that we may learn to become replicas of the stars of Hollywood and Bollywood? How many universities in Malaysia are teaching critical media analysis?

Selling them junks

The owners of the satellites are smiling from the heavens looking down at Malaysians opiated and stoned in front of the TV set. The mantra is this: Feed the masses with all the ads and sell them junk through TV programmes. Sell them dreams so that they will buy and buy and let the media control and create their lives.

Whoever controls TV gets to control storytelling. Whoever controls the station controls the means of producing mass propaganda. Whoever controls the government controls the means of controlling the minds of the people. It is a mind-control game.

We learn from TV programmes. We learn to have choices of what to buy and what to believe through the propaganda. One is made to have choices to believe what kind of information is to be funneled into one's brain and next what kind of reality to believe, based on those presented by TV.

Malaysians complain that they only read half a page of a book a year on average, but why not complain that more and more TV stations are sprouting racing with one another to produce more and more sophisticated junk.

Producers have their ideological biases in what they produce. They answer to profiteers. Whatever sells can and ought to be mass-produced. The more people watch the programme, the higher the ratings, the more expensive the advertising slot.

Producers are not interested in producing ‘truth’. They think they are depicting ‘reality’ and therefore we see ‘reality shows’ to exploit human gullibility.

What is Malaysian TV producing? Better programmess or better propaganda?

One is bombarded by split-second images that hits the brain and colonise the mind.

Watch a 30-second commercial when you're tired, and you will discover that you are not watching TV, but the TV is watching you and washing your senses with subliminal messages that makes propaganda artsy and scientific.

Cruel choices

TV provides cruel choices. One is glued to the set, armed with the remote control. Especially with satellite TV with those many channels, children become glued to the idiot box. Observe what will happen to society when we have more and more channels.

The brain cells get excited at the end of every good TV programme. If it's a game show, the self glued to the TV gets transported in time and space to participate in the illusion of winning and losing. If it's a soap opera, the self becomes the actor or actress in the story in the process of the imitation of life.

TV programmes provide hundreds of choices daily for one to engage in alternate-reality games.

In TV-land, democracy is about creating more and more money selling advertisements that will turn all of us into TV freaks and addicts of the idiot box. It is not about developing one's skills in stepping outside of society and looking at it like a crystal ball.

TV-land is the land of make-believe that is created to turn viewers into bodies that consume and continue to be consumed. It is a land of cut-throat culture industry that first positions humanity in front of the TV, bombards it with trillions of sound bytes and multi-coloured electronic images, and transforms it into wide-eyed consumers that will consume conspicuously. This is the strategy of those who owns TV stations and cable broadcast satellites.

Brilliant! But the goal is to profit from advertising, in the name of having choices in a democratic world of mass consumption, TV provides such democratic choices. Cable TV provides the most choices in the presenting of propaganda.

‘TV is producing us’

TV creates human beings. American idols create idols to be worshipped. The Malaysian Idol, a transmutation of the American programme creates the human self that is to be made into an idol to be further worshipped via tabloid, radio, and TV.

TV can turn the kampung boy or girl into a demi-god who will then be transformed into an idol - an icon, a walking and talking billboard, a symbol of protest, a sign and symbol of this or that, a spokesperson for this and that organisation that will pay the most, a mascot for a political party. All these are creations of the well-trained media brains behind TV programming.

Want to be a famous politician? Control the media. Have it glorify you. Want to last long? Control it for more than 20 years. Have it make you into an idol or an icon. Learn from despotic rulers.

In the creation of Malaysian Idol, people love to see others humiliated in the name of creating that one particular idol. The nation enjoys that; like the Romans enjoying the gladiator thrown into the arena. Then the movie star or the music star is created, TV addicts and TV freaks read junk tabloids to keep up with news of the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

Children will forget the hero within themselves. Their hero will be outside of themselves. To be - is to be like somebody else.

One cannot live that lifestyle but one can certainly be identified with it. TV is thus watching what human beings watch and therefore recreates human beings that are consumed by these images controlled by people who want to turn us into consumers.

Politicians who control the media (print or broadcast media) are also controlling the process of producing propaganda. But first, the politician must buy the media so that he/she will be recreated, just like the Malaysian Idol is created.

See how the modern media works? Sublime and subversive. Imagine what 100 channels can do to the human mind. Imagine what they can do to society.

Those watching American Idol get stoned on other people's fame and fortune, just like those who watch Wheels of Fortune do not realise that they watch the game show to forget that they may be in a wheel of misfortune themselves.

TV is a clever mass producer of dreams. Dreams can be in English, Malay, Chinese, Tamil, Urdu or Arabic. Whoever is clever and has the skills to create, can become dream-merchants peddling dreams. Electronic dreams are sublime. They wash away sorrows of the real world.

Bollywood is an industry. Malaysians especially have been conditioned to love Hindustani movies because they have been around since the early days of TV. Many Malaysians are of the south Indian stock, and therefore Bollywood helps Malaysians get stoned glued to TV in the modern age.

Bollywood sells well. Soap operas are a great hit with Malaysian housewives because that's the time to be glued to advertisements. Soap operas make housewives and house-husbands cry a lot because of the power of subliminal seduction. But the best part is to turn them into happy and stoned consumers.

Is this the meaning of life? Aren't we supposed to destroy idols and the Neon gods - and rediscover the ‘Self’ within?

Reality of TV

Without advertisements and governments there won't be media. Those who owns media gets to own the means of colonising other people's mind, including the minds of the producers.

Producers have to kowtow to the dictates of corporations and governments. Owners of TV stations have controlling interests in the government and vice versa. This is the picture of the interconnectivity of the production of truth and the truth of profit-making.

They are mental slaves in the production house of ideologies; whatever these ideologies may present themselves. They produce for environmental polluters, beer companies, credit card companies, electric companies, cartoon companies, and cigarette companies.

I am sure we know the relationship between advertising slots and TV programming. In the long run, these create good consumers and fewer good citizens that can think critically of the fate of society.

TV is can also be a good master and servant to governments; the more corrupt the government the more corrupt TV programming becomes.

All TV stations are ideological; they do not present the truth - they can never claim to present objective points of view, because these truths are funded by corporations and government. The biggest lie can get funded by the biggest corporate or governmental liars.

TV in a democratic country cannot necessarily be democratic. It is based on presenting seemingly democratic opinions but yet they are all well-crafted to make the audience feel that they are being presented with truth.

But is all TV useless?

Malaysian Reality Show

The best Malaysian TV is yet to come - the ‘live’ telecast of the Malaysian parliamentary debates. This can be good for the nation. If we can have a machine to vote for the most presentable politician weekly, we would be on our way to teaching our children what political accountability means. Political accountability can contribute to higher levels of civic consciousness.

Weekly tallies of good intellectual performance, coupled with good track record to no-corrupt acts, and good non-tax-evasion record - all these will help TV viewers enjoy the political game-show and decide on which politician should stay or be axed out.

I think our elected officials are ready for Malaysian Parliamentary TV. It will be a good way to educate Malaysians, especially the younger generation, of the political process, of participatory democracy, of the ethics of politics, of the power of the political intellect, and of powerful rhetoric.

That will be the promising world of good TV. That will be reality TV, Unlike the news reporting we get these days. News reports are massaged truth. Documentaries are longer versions of massaged truth.

TV stations hire more and more good researchers to produce better and better massaged truths.

Al-Jazeera is a station of propaganda of the Qatar government. Fox News is the station of propaganda par excellence of corporate America. The same goes with Malaysian TV stations. They all produce massaged truths. They broadcast points of view that are politically correct.

The human mind is made to be fragmented by these alternate truths. In the long run, the mind creates the self that reproduces itself into a walking and talking "worldview that is shaped by propaganda".

With private and public TV, we are sucked into the world of false consciousness, of make-believe, and of other people's stories.

So essentially the human self cannot escape from being enslaved by ideologies. TV producers, owners, politicians, educators, parents and teenagers must learn how to recognise false consciousness and massaged truths.

But one must first switch off the idiot box and pull out the cable.

Parents, teachers, educators, TV producers, community leaders, politicians - I interrupt this essay with an important public announcement.

Buy books

To help children increase their capacity to think, I would suggest we unsubscribe to cable TV, switch off the channels, and begin a programme of TV-detoxification. This might be akin to a rehabilitation programme for TV addiction.

The new daily diet must be of books - good books of the various traditions and disciplines.

Reading is a special psycho-linguistic activity that helps the mind create images out of sounds, syllables, words, concepts, sentences, phrase, alliteration, personification, onomatopoeia, and other strategies designed to make the mind active - the very stuff that helps the brain create and imagine.

It trains the brain in a different way. It does not, like TV, make the brain docile and ready to be raped and subdued.

When the brain is subdued, the mind becomes colonised, and the body becomes a location for consumption. We become consuming bodies that are produced by TV advertising. Satellite owners will benefit.

First tier media giants - AOL-Time Warner, Walt Disney, Bertelsmann, Viacom, AT&T, SONY, Vivendi Universal and Rupert Murdoch - will benefit. Hollywood and Bollywood will benefit.

Buy your child 100 books instead of subscribing to 100 channels. Have quiet reading times instead of living multiple realities created by TV. Get them to understand what it means to have their own stories, and to be makers of their own history rather that be turned into consumers manipulated by TV.

Kids grow smarter around books. Teach them what TV is trying to teach.

But first, turn off that TV. For, the world created by television is too much for our children.

3 comments:

rnathan_sp said...

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rnathan_sp said...

Hello Dr.
Thank you for wonderful articles.

Just a quick correction - South Indians in Malaysia (mainly Tamil speaking) watch south indian programmes NOT from Bollywood.

I think first of all the kids in Malaysia have no time to read or watch TV because of many extra-curicullum activities - swimming class, piano class, tuition, doing school homework etc etc. Many also play video games on Internet.

Regards,
Nate

mokumanamana Jr said...

Excellent piece Dr.
Though my children nowadays spend more time on computer games but true to what mathan_sp said, most of the weekdays daytime are spent at school and at night, most will go to tuition class for 2 hours.

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