2014 May 01 Thursday
Saw A Silenced TV Program Today

The volume was off and a few talking heads were going at it as I waited in line at a business place. I think the topic was sports. It occurred to me that I had not been in the same room as an operational TV for many months. Watching them reminded me that I'm way better off not watching.

Here is my advice on TV: Do not watch it. Really. Kick it.

Do you watch TV? Try getting your cable TV disconnected. You might go through withdrawal for some months. But eventually it will pass.

How I kicked TV: I accidentally cut the TV cable while clipping vines. I did not realize I did it. The TV didn't work the next day and I figured I must have forgot to pay the bill. Decided to use the opportunity to stop watching. Some days later I figured out I had cut the cable. I thought, hey, that was a good accident. So I walked down to the cable TV store (happened to be close to where I lived then) and closed the account.

Why do not watch it: First of all, it is a waste of time. Second, it is an obstacle in your intellectual and career development. It steals time away from pursuits that will make you feel deeply satisfied with your life. Plus, it ladles out big continuing doses of propaganda that make you buy into a collective mythology that powerful people want you to believe. Go for your intellectual liberation and stop dosing your mind with propaganda.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2014 May 01 08:06 PM 

James Bowery said at May 1, 2014 10:53 PM:

You neglected to point out a potential negative side effect of not buying into the collective mythology that powerful people want you to believe:

You become a target of altruistic punishment.

There is a fine line between keep in touch with the delusions of mass psychosis (so you can humor them and avoid pushing their altruistic punishment buttons) and becoming a psychotic yourself. Group selective pressures drive people to poll the psychological state of those around them so they can be on the winning side of any group selection event (polite name for 'war' even if it is war conducted by other means such as politics). I think its ok to talk about some of this in polite company now that Pinker has broached the topic. I'm not sure why Jews are loosening the thumb screws here -- maybe its just Pinker.

Stephen said at May 2, 2014 1:00 AM:

A salient and timely warning to us all James. We are now well into a cycle of history where heretics / critical thinkers etc need to be careful lest they arrive at a sticky end.

Wolf-Dog said at May 2, 2014 2:18 AM:

Unfortunately the future Internet will contain all TV programs, but fortunately there will be more channels to choose from, especially intellectually and professionally useful ones. Gradually, the boundary between Internet and television will be blurred. In fact, some of these internet television channels might even be non-profit interactive websites that include a lot of dynamically changing videos for Linux developers discussing the intricacies of parallel programming, etc. Instead of subscribing to cable television, people will chose which websites to subscribe to. There will probably be bundled subscriptions to groups of internet channels/websites at a discount, just like cable TV, but with more intelligent choices.

Jersey said at May 2, 2014 3:46 AM:

Having cable is toxic and pointless, but we use Apple TV + Netflix, which means we get to be selective, and that's worked great. And I will not, not, not give up baseball.

Also, "Jews loosening the thumb screws"...? Seriously?

James Bowery said at May 2, 2014 8:28 AM:

Jersey, yes I know I pushed an altruistic punishment button by mentioning Jews. There have been hundreds of movies about the Holocaust. This has profoundly affected the collective mythology. But consider for a moment that there has been not a _single_ movie about the Holodomor. Why do you suppose that is? Could it be that Jews are disproportionately influential in formulating collective mythologies? I mean is it unreasonable to say that the Bible was disproportionately influenced by Jews as well as the media?

Consider also the secular collective mythology that predates Holocaustianity: The blank slate. Is it unreasonable to point out that the idea that genes don't really vary that much between groups and/or they don't affect intelligence is due, in large part, to Jewish influence on academia -- while Jews themselves are now known to not only possess, as a group, distinctive heritable traits for high intelligence?

Stephen said at May 2, 2014 7:17 PM:

There's much to be gained in ruminating on why a society knows certain things, but doesn't know certain other things.

Kudzu Bob said at May 3, 2014 2:39 PM:

Amen, Randall. Tossed mine out in 2002. Smartest thing I ever did.

Ben said at May 4, 2014 6:33 PM:

Do you object to TV because of the medium or because of the content?

I've never really understood why its become so fashionable to bash TV. It's just theater, and theater is ancient and respectable. So I'm guessing you and others object to TV because most of the content is crappy? OK, but there's tons of good TV shows, like the Simpsons, or Downton Abbey, which are as intelligent as any book. I don't see why that's bad. Is it because there is some vague sense that all our activities have to be "productive", and TV is "passive"? We can't be working all the time, and even so reading a book is equally passive.

I'm guessing bashing TV is more of a social signalling thing. Since TV is embraced by the masses, smart people have to make a point of bashing TV.

Because really TV is just theater - yeah, that thing that Shakespeare did - using modern technology.

Kudzu Bob said at May 4, 2014 6:43 PM:


It ain't exactly Sophocles and Christopher Marlow who write the TV shows that mold most Americans' thinking, if you get my drift.

Ben said at May 4, 2014 8:10 PM:

Kudzu Bob, no one suggests you burn the libraries because most books aren't exactly written by Marlow or Ben Johnson. Yet because lots of TV is bad, we're supposed to get rid of our TV sets rather than just sensibly watch the good stuff.

If people want to not watch TV that's fine, but good TV is as intellectually satisfying as anything else, and it would be silly to deprive oneself of it because it has become fashionable among intellectuals to trash it.

Bismarckian said at May 4, 2014 9:27 PM:

I enjoy Mad Men for 3 reasons:

1. It's intellectually stimulating because of its historical and professional setting.
2. It has good male role models, both positive (what to do), and negative (what not to do).
3. Art has value to me, and this is good art.

I watch it on my computer, naturally.

Kudzu Bob said at May 4, 2014 9:31 PM:


No, I guess you didn't my drift: Those who produce, write, and direct television--the bad shows, the okay ones, and especially those NPR tells you it's okay to like--mean us no good.

Ben said at May 5, 2014 6:01 PM:

Kudzu Bob - how is this different from literature? Do you suggest we stop reading books because Howard Zinn and a million other leftists wrote books and means us no good?

I get that lots of TV is propganda. So are books. We can choose what we read, we can choose what we watch. Lots of shows have little or no propganda. Many shows, like Mad Men or Game of Thrones, or the Sopranos, and to some extent Downton Abbey, present a way of life and thought that is not just propganda free, but totally at odds with the leftist conception of how to live and think. From the leftist perspective the value of these shows is partly to shudder in horror at how un-liberal different eras were; but one can view these shows from the opposite perspective. Anti-war movies are savored and loved by combat troops who thrill to the savagery and bloodshed depicted. It often depends on your point of view. The animated show Archer depicts a world that is so sexist, racist, and not politically correct as to almost constitute a refutation of political correctness, but its OK because its a cartoon. It's loved by the intellectual class. Maybe in this surreptitious way the intellectual class is really skewering its own pieties? If so, TV can serve a positive function.

Kudzu Bob said at May 6, 2014 7:48 PM:


To the extent that TV propagandizes us, it is bad. To the extent that TV is good enough to keep the intelligent minority busy watching it while their civilization dies around them, it is far worse.

Ben said at May 7, 2014 3:28 PM:

Now you're missing my point Kudzu Bob. What you said could be said of any medium of communication, including books. If you wish to get rid of books too, you're consistent. If you make an exception only for TV, you're not being consistent and one can only suspect that your motives for banning TV have other sources than you claim or perhaps realize.

Check it out said at May 7, 2014 4:38 PM:

I really liked this post very much. I believe I have spoken some on the issue some time ago, but you've made a very good invitation of just saying NO to that tv addiction. Movies is mostly the same.

It's all really junk, including the Discovery, BBC, GEO, which disguise their shows as "documentaries" that include all those dramatic sound effects, grandiose music and the people in them having a little bit of actors.

Kenneth Stevens said at May 7, 2014 6:04 PM:


TV watching doesn't just encourage passivity, it demands it, unlike reading. The medium is uniquely destructive. You might as well smoke crack--at least that shit keeps you thin.

Ben said at May 8, 2014 4:36 AM:

How is TV more passive than reading a book? Please explain. Is TV more passive than theater? Than opera? Staring at paintings in a museum? I don't get it. Something isn't making sense here. People keep on repeating that TV is bad but no one seems able to explain it. So far everything that has been said about TV can be said about most other art forms. Something weird is going on here. It's like people want very much to dislike TV but can't explain why, or don't want to admit to themselves why (more likely).

And what, exactly, is so bad about passivity? Meditation is passivity taken to an extreme, and small doses can be very healthy. Science is beginning to show that simply zoning out and not thinking can be healthy and spur creativity. Being constantly active sounds hellish to me - surely we need periods of passivity?

No, something just isn't adding up here. But I'm getting that most of you guys don't really know yourselves why you dislike TV, and I may just have to accept that disliking TV is just one of those things about modern intellectuals that are more about fashion and taste than, and perhaps group signalling, than anything else. I would guess distaste for TV is bound up with a general dislike of the vulgarity of the modern - like fondness for old neighborhoods, old craft foods and cheeses, etc. But while it makes sense to prefer old architecture and craft cheese, it makes no sense to dislike TV. It just got caught up in it.

Kudzu Bob said at May 8, 2014 7:39 PM:

How is TV more passive than reading a book?

People have to learn how to read, but watching television is something anybody, even a subnormal illiterate, can do without effort. Now quit being willfully obtuse.

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