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TV Toxicosis

The news automatically becomes the real world for the TV user and is not a substitute for reality, but is itself an immediate reality.

–Marshall McLuhan

What can one say about information that appears on television other than that it is devalued and debased by the medium itself?   The medium’s message is massage, as Marshall McLuhan quipped.  The experience of the television-watcher, said McLuhan, is one of soothing and relaxation.   Which is to say the medium succeeds in “communication,” if we may be permitted to call it that, by softening the viewer into acquiescence.  Of course, the “communication” must be massaged, for the reductive nature of the televised image requires it.   A man not himself relaxed below full mental capacity, his guard down, would otherwise find the reductive “communication” to be intolerable bullshit.  The problem is made more nefarious and troubling by the fact of the collusion of corporate marketeers and the purveyors of junk that invest in the medium expecting a return (the return on the investment being the reduction of the attention span to windows of opportunity where intolerable bullshit is accepted as meaningful and, indeed, as a “cultural phenomenon”).  This is one of the many reasons that I, along with other notable researchers in this field, have always advocated the necessity of a coordinated national policy for the shooting of televisions on sight (see field research conducted by Ketcham et al, in and around Moab, Utah).

My most recent experiment into the documentation of excessive TV massage, with resultant toxicosis, was conducted in various living rooms and other spaces known to contain televisions.   In that the subject, a young female, expressed terror of the effects of television – complaining about it sometimes for days afterward and pleading with the researcher to not continue with the experiment – she nonetheless used the drug whenever possible, and while doing so she was kind enough to allow close observation of her disorder.

Some quick lab notes will suffice as a measure of the severity of the problem.  Depression, angst, worry and sorrow are ameliorated for the duration of use, but only briefly, as the mild stimulant effect, the lightening of mood, the gentle euphoria, the amnesiac calm coupled with brain analgesis, wears off.   Following as short an exposure as two hours – defined here as binge viewing – the subject is reduced to a pile of mental rubble.  Mild to moderate depression, along with inability to concentrate or get anything substantive accomplished, follows hard upon the binge, a post-trauma often lasting several days.

Note the pervasive nature of the temptation to use.  Upon seeing a television in most any public space, subject’s attention is drawn away from conversation, the drug exerting what can only be characterized as gravitational force.  Eyes dart away from human interlocutors.  In situations where the drug can be used recreationally in a safe enclosure, however – where the subject can relax in a chair or on a soft couch – the disorder can be documented fully.  After multiple (2+) hours of use, subject’s mien and posture are negatively affected.   There is a visible sagging of the jaw, the mouth hangs slightly limp.   Skin tone and texture take on a sallow, damaged look.  Blood drains from the face, and the flesh on the cheeks appears to loosen.  Altogether, the face assumes a kind of death mask.   Hair takes on a limp appearance, while the nostrils seem to get bigger.  Shoulders slump, limbs are static, eyes retreat into the head and grow ringed.   Mental acuity and general cognition are almost immediately, and drastically, reduced; brainwaves approach torpid, ie near comatose, activity.   Subject sometimes cannot speak in answer to the simplest queries.  The subject might be described at this point as approaching paralysis, though it was found on several occasions that the paralytic condition was broken almost immediately by any intimation of the curtailing of use; on at least one occasion, this researcher was attacked in a physical display of remarkable ferocity after he interrupted the experiment for dinner.

Some researchers in recent years have attempted to draw a parallel between the psycho-physical effects of excessive TV massage and the socio-political effects of the rise to power of certain TV “news-clowns,” so-called, that act as entertainers-cum-activists on the left end of the political spectrum.  The parallels are not to be discounted.   We may single out as a promising evidentiary exhibit the work of multi-millionaire news-clown Jon Stewart in his organization of the recent “March for Sanity” in Washington DC.   The march was arguably the culmination of years of prior work softening news-clown viewers on the political left to accept certain odd definitions of “sanity”: that, for example, political activism should be reduced to watching Jon Stewart.   This massage of the political left, it has been argued, is achieved through mockery of real-world activism, whose adherents are dismissed by implication as earnest, that is too serious for massage, and are vilified openly as “the crazies on the left” – as opposed to the “sane” news-clown viewer.  In that nothing is to be taken seriously in political action beyond the paralytic act of watching the news-clown “in action,” the effect on the mass of viewers is not unlike that experienced in the case of TV toxicosis described above.  The mood is briefly lightened, but the long-term damage is devastating: The news-clown viewer, massaged into complacency, does not rise from his seat to engage politically, having been told that to do so would render him a laughing-stock.

It is beyond the scope of this paper to address in toto the political problem of TV toxicosis and the mass of problem users in the United States, though one may venture to make interim recommendations for treatment.  As noted above, this researcher’s work in and around Moab, Utah, has found the most promising solutions include the .44 magnum handgun for maximum firepower easily deployed; the 12 gauge shotgun with short choke for more problematic televisions; or the Mini-14 assault rifle (as pictured) with 20-shot clip to ensure through attrition at least some prophylaxis where multiple televisions are at issue or are attempting to escape.   Other studies in junkyards, backyards, shooting ranges and, hopefully one day, on every street in America, will no doubt confirm the effectiveness of this approach.

CHRISTOPHER KETCHAM, a freelance writer who splits his time between Brooklyn, NY and Moab, Utah, is writing a book about secession movements. Contact him at cketcham99@mindspring.com

 

Christopher Ketcham is the author of  “This Land: How Cowboys, Capitalism and Corruption are Ruining the American West” (Viking-Penguin).  He can be reached at cketcham99@mindspring.com.

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