Four Arguments For the Elimination of Television: The Power of Images

Through the power of images, television alters our internal perceptions of reality and hence how we understand and interact with the exterior world.

| May/June 1979

The following is an excerpt from Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander, copyright © 1977. Reprinted with the permission of William Morrow and Company, Inc. In a continuing examination of the effects of watching TV, this installment considers the power of images: television implants artificial images that overtake the human mind's ability to create natural images, creating a schizophrenic mix of imagery partially disconnected from reality.    

How We Turn Into Our Images

More than any other single effect, television places images in our brains. It is a melancholy fact that most of us give little importance to this implantation, perhaps because we have lost touch with our own image-creating abilities, how we use them, and the critical functions they serve in our lives. Not being in touch, we don't grasp the significance of other people's images replacing or gaining equality with our own. And yet there are no more terrifying facts about television than that it intervenes between humans and our own image-creating abilities and intervenes between humans and our images of the concrete world outside of our minds.

In this chapter, we will look at how images, any images, directly affect human beings and how we humans slowly turn into whatever images we carry in our minds. Then in the next chapter, we will concentrate on television images.

What makes these matters most series that human beings have not yet been equipped by evolution to distinguish in our minds between natural images and those which are artificially created and implanted. Neither are we equipped to defend ourselves against the implantation. Until the invention of moving image media, there was never a need to make any distinction or defense.

And so the final effect, as we will see, is that the two kinds of image—artificial and natural—merge in the mind and we are driven into a nether world of confusion. Like the Solaris astronauts, we cannot differentiate between the present and the past, the concrete and the imaginary. Like the schizophrenic, we cannot tell which image is the product of our own minds, which is representative of a real world, and which has been put inside us by a machine.

Humans Are Image Factories

I have heard people say they can't visualize; they can't make pictures in their heads.

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