Four Arguments For The Elimination Of Television: Conclusion

Jerry Mander recaps and wraps up his position in this final installment of Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television.

| May/June 1980

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. MOTHER EARTH NEWS has serialized it in its entirety. This is the last installment in the series, and is reprinted with permission of the author and William Morrow and Company.

Arguments Four: The Inherent Biases of Television (Concluded)

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. The bias is inherent in the technology.  

Am I actually saying that television is utterly useless? There are the old examples of the destruction of Joseph McCarthy, the exposure of the Vietnam War, the undoing of Richard Nixon, the civil rights movement. We cannot deny that television has occasionally served what appears, even to me, as a progressive purpose.

And yet what ties all of these together is the extent to which they were framed in the sort of objective terms that television can handle.

McCarthy, Vietnam, and Nixon were exposed because the issues were lies, deceits, corruption—objective matters. These are all "good television."

But, finally, I want to get back to the civil rights movement because it is the exception that proves the larger point about the medium.

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