Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Steerage - Day 3

Day 3 - Schedule a "turn off the TV" day.

This one's a bit more expansive than the first two 'days of steerage', only because the scope is much broader than you might suspect. I'm not talking about my own TV (which I rarely watch, except for Sunday afternoons in the fall). I'm talking about your TV. And your neighbor's TV. And every TV in your town.

One thing that the right and left had in common during the past election cycle - we all felt that the media was unfair to our respective sides. Media Matters is pretty clear on the trend: broadcast news organizations (particularly those on the 'cable only' side of the ledger) leaned decidedly toward the right over last year. It's not personal, though. It's all about ratings and advertising dollars. When Rupert Murdoch is swinging the longest dong on the news porch, the other cable newsbots are going to try and follow him. It's the nature of the beast. But you knew that already, right? Because you're a smart cookie who reads this blog, and by default, tolerates my own insufferable rants against the biased media.

I digress.

So, what's this about scheduling a 'turn off the TV day'? Well, let's do the math. Fifty-some odd million people voted against fascism on November 2, as opposed to fifty-some odd million people (+1) who voted for fascism. Ok, fine. We're fucked for the next four (or forty, pick your timeframe) years. But we don't have to support the inexorable march toward fascism and the demise of critical thinking by continuing to watch and support the broadcast outlets of the Ministry of Truth.

What I'm proposing is one day - a single day - where every progressive in the country shuts off the TV for 24 hours. One day. It would be great if it was a high impact time like Super Bowl Sunday, but that ain't gonna happen, even in my household. But what if we made that day January 20, 2005? Inauguration Day. News organizations are going to be tripping over themselves, and expect very high ratings for the second coronation.

Let's surprise the networks and their advertisers. From the time that Matt Lauer flashes his balding head at 7AM EST from his "Today Show" press box on Pennsylvania Avenue, through 7AM the next day when Matt's nursing a terrible hangover from the previous evening's Coronation Balls, turn off your television set. In fact, if 50 some-odd million people simply shut down the tube for a 24 hour period, and gave a good Nielsen thumping to the advertisers, I think it would send a powerful message.

That's what I meant when I said that Steerage - Day 3 would be "schedule a turn off your TV day". Not just mine. Yours and everyone else's.

Beale: Edward George Ruddy died today! Edward George Ruddy was Chairman of the Board of the Union Broadcasting Systems and he died at eleven o'clock this morning of a heart condition! And woe is us! We're in a lot of trouble!!

So, a rich little man with white hair died. What does that got to do with the price of rice, right? And why is that woe to us?

Because you people, and 62 million other Americans are listening to me right now.

Because less than 3 percent of you people read books.

Because less than 15 percent of you read newspapers.

Because the only truth you know is what you get over this tube.

Right now, there is a whole and entire generation that never knew anything that didn't come out of this tube.

This tube is the gospel, the ultimate revelation.

This tube can make or break presidents, popes, prime ministers.

This tube is the most awesome goddamn force in the while godless world.

And woe is us if it ever falls into the hands of the wrong people.

And that's why woe is us that Edward George Ruddy died.

Because this company is now in the hands of CCA -- the Communication Corporation of America. There's a new Chairman of the Board, a man called Frank Hackett sitting in Mr. Ruddy's office on the 20th floor. And when the 12th largest company in the world controls the most awesome goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world, who knows what shit will be peddled for truth on this network.

So, you listen to me. Listen to me!

Television is not the truth. Television is a goddamn amusement park. Television is circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers, and football players.

We're in the boredom-killing business.

So if you want the Truth, go to God.

Go to your gurus.

Go to yourselves!

Because that's the only place you're ever gonna find any real truth.

But, man, you're never gonna get any truth from us. We'll tell you anything you wanna hear. We lie like hell. We'll tell you that Kojak always gets the killer and that nobody ever gets cancer in Archie Bunker's house. And no matter how much trouble the hero is in, don't worry. Just look at your watch. At the end of the hour, he's gonna win. We'll tell you any shit you want to hear.

We deal in illusions, man. None of it is true!

But you people sit there, day after day, night after night -- all ages, colors, creeds,

We're all you know!

You're beginning to believe the illusions we're spinning here!

You're beginning to think that the tube is reality and that your own lives are unreal.

You do whatever the tube tells you --

You dress like the tube.

You eat like the tube.

You raise your children like the tube.

You even think like the tube.

This is mass madness, you maniacs!

In God's name, you people are the real thing.

We are the illusion!

So turn off your television sets. Turn them off now. Turn them off right now. Turn them off and leave them off. Turn them off right in the middle of this sentence I'm speaking to you now.

Turn them off!!
If you've never seen this Paddy Chayevsky piece, performed by Peter Finch (as Howard Beale) in the movie Network, you missed perhaps the most powerful four minute performance monologue in film history. Your reward for suffering with me through this long post is a link to Howard Beale's rant. Watch it.

Then, resolve to turn them off on January 20, 2005.

Oh - and someone make me a logo that we can pass around to other progressive blogs. ;-)