Saturday, March 29, 2008

Interesting Thought of the Day

In his lucid explanation of why it was that proletarians were more politically oriented than were peasants (though both were poor and exploited), Marx talked about how the individual cottages of each isolated peasant family looked out at the fields they individually worked. In effect, the peasants related to the world as individuals and simply had no effective "window" on the complex realities of social and economic organization. Their lives were neither urbanized nor sufficiently collectivized within production situations. They also resided at a distance from their neighbors; community thus was (in Marx's view) minimal. Television screens, arguably, are not unlike the peasant's window on the fields. They provide a glimpse (in this case a consciously controlled glimpse) of a small part of the world, but also isolate existence, reduce community, and narrow experience, both intellectual and actual.

Television rarely asks questions about the desirability and importance of consumption, or about the structures of society (or media ownership patterns). It just "entertains" in a mildly addictive sort of way, filling silences and providing a substitute for community institutions. It supplies amusing and undemanding friends and highly skilled athletic activity without the need for effort or the risk of injury or personal failure. It is also the ultimate selling machine for both goods and politics. In most developing nations it is, in effect, the advanced guard of globalization—it is at the heart of global-scale economic integration. Access to the airwaves (other than very locally) is all but unavailable to citizens, or to organizations without millions of dollars to spend.

- Robert Paehlke in Democracy's Dilemma

I personally don't think televisions grip over the masses is that intentional, since every day I am more and more convinced that people are just generally stupid and prefer the mindless entertainment that is provided to them on the airwaves over the more important and more thought-requiring topics or issues that they should be concerned about. Its unfortunate because I would much rather excuse their stupidity by saying that they are force-fed this stuff by the people in power, but the reality, I think, is that they actually enjoy this crap.

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