Four Arguments For The Elimination Of Television

In this excerpt from Four Arguments for the Elimination Of Television, Jerry Mander demonstrates that TV can only present event-driven, streamlined, frenetic modes of thinking even when a program might favor contemplative, holistic approaches.

| March/April 1980

062 four arguments against TV - Fotolia - AIGARSR

Jerry Mander contends the inherent biases of television argue for its elimination.


What's the matter with our modern, technologically based society anyway? Why isn't it more satisfying? Why do so many of us now feel that some vague something hounds us and diminishes us and makes us into something less than we should be? Most specifically of all, do we really use television—and so many other "benefits" and "tools" of our technological age—or does it use us? Jerry Mander speaks the unspeakable and asks the unaskable in a remarkable new book, Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, that is being completely serialized in this magazine. This excerpt, the tenth installment in the series, is reprinted with the permission of William Morrow and Company Inc.  

Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television - Argument Four: The Inherent Biases of Television

Along with the venality of its controllers, the technology of television predetermines the boundaries of its content. Some information can be conveyed completely, some partially, some not at all. The most effective telecommunications are the gross, simplified linear messages and programs which conveniently fit the purposes of the medium's commercial controllers. Television's highest potential is advertising. This cannot be changed. It is the technology's inherent bias.

The Pieces That Fall Through the Filter

As a way of drawing together the technical limits and tendencies of television technology so that a pattern emerges, I would like to offer a list, a sort of potpourri. A number of the items in it have been touched on earlier. They are included here again so that we can gain a unified impression of the medium, what kind of world it must inevitably transmit.

Thirty-Three Miscellaneous Inherent Biases 

[1] War is better television than peace. It is filled with highlighted moments, contains action and resolution, and delivers a powerful emotion: fear. Peace is amorphous and broad. The emotions connected with it are subtle, personal, and internal. These are far more difficult to televise.

[2] Violence is better television than nonviolence.

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