Stopping the noise…

The television is gone.

Literally. I threw out the television with a lot of other stuff when I had the junkman come and load his truck. But before that I cut the cable. Not literally, but I told the cable company, "No more! Cease! Basta! Stop!" That got rid of most of the telecrap, and a month later even the dregs were gone. I’ve been without the stuff since September 20.

I think my blood pressure dropped a few points.

I was addicted to the stream of images, yes. My brain wanted them, wanted that flow of motion and noise. And some sick part of my psyche reinforced the addiction because my social life barely exists and television characters had become my social life. Between those two forces I was letting myself wreck on the reefs of triviavision.

But a long time ago I quit smoking, almost thirty years ago, having my last two cigarettes on the day I went to divorce court. And I was a heavy smoker. If I could do that, I could certainly quit television.

Turns out television wasn’t so tough. After a couple of days I barely missed it, and now I have no interest in reviving it in my home or watching it elsewhere.

I do miss a couple of things. English soccer. The occasional professional rugby game from the far corners of the world. And that’s about it. There’s nothing else to miss on that misbegotten box. Maybe The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

The news programs have continued their descent into trivia and hysteria, delivered by people who barely qualify to appear in a still photograph, much less to deliver the news on television. All that can be said of a news program that tells you there is something incredibly important happening, something you absolutely must know, something that affects your health or your welfare, and then says they’ll tell you at the end of the show, or in an upcoming segment which doesn’t come up until ‘later’, all that can be said of such news programs is that selling you their advertisers’ products is way more important than giving you that piece of information.

I won’t even go into the fraud that televised American professional sports commit every week. But just one little example, one serious peeve… The NFL broadcasts run three hours. Official game time is one hour. But actual play consumes about twelve minutes. Twelve minutes of the ball in play, twelve minutes out of three hours. Sorry, fans, that’s fraud. They’re telling you your time will buy you three hours of football, but they’re only giving you twelve minutes. That’s television. I gave up on the NFL some years ago, except for an occasional game, but I could barely stand watching because of the constant insult. The game that really turned me off had Cincinnati playing someone, and the game opened with five straight penalty calls from the horde of officials on the field. Game over!


I wrote all that exactly one month ago, on September 30. The only television I’ve seen since then was in a restaurant where it was impossible to sit anywhere without seeing a television running sports programming (NFL replays, if I recall correctly).

But here’s the interesting thing. I feel calmer, more collected, more connected to myself. I suspect my blood pressure is down because I’m not constantly aggravated by television programming.

And here’s something a little more interesting. I don’t really care what happens in Libya or Somalia or Thailand. I don’t really care that Rick Perry is an arrogant, egotistical, ignorant Texas loudmouth. I’m neither excited nor worried about the Occupy Wall Street movement.

It’s not that I’m not aware of the human element in all these dramas on the world stage. It’s not that I no longer appreciate human suffering or human triumph. But I am no longer assaulted by breathless reporters and concerned anchorpeople telling me by word and action that I should be concerned, that everything that is happening everywhere should demand my attention, should capture my emotions, should stay tuned in order to hear the latest developments in the next hour, developments which are exactly the same as in this hour, and whose subtext is ‘Watch our commercials!’ And of course the sub-subtext: ‘Isn’t my hair pretty!’

I see television now as an assault on emotions, an affront to intellect, a waste of airwaves. Its trivialization of everything down to the level of a child’s mind demeans the viewers. And what isn’t trivialized is generally dumbed down.

Apologists for television will say that it does some good things, that it is not all a Minowian wasteland. And that is true. Television covers live events pretty well. Freeway chases where cops race after felons on California highways, for example. Some battle scenes in various wars, as long as American television blurs out or simply refuses to show the devastating results of a child hit by bullets or shrapnel. They don’t want to upset the viewers, who might turn to another channel and watch those other commercials. So they lie. Here’s the war correspondent and his cameraman hunkering down behind a wall while bullets whiz around them. Wow! It’s as exciting as an NFL game and even less truthful. You don’t get real war on television. You get pretend war, you get prettified war that lets you go on cheering for your side because, after all, nobody really gets hurt. Not on American television.

Television almost never tells the truth. The truth hurts sales. Children turned to red paste and shattered bone by American arms just doesn’t sell McDonalds’ burgers or General Motors cars or Nike shoes. And anyway you can see all the gore you want at the movies or on the premium movie channels.

But yes, once in a while something worth watching shows up, but because it is surrounded by the rest of television, by triviavision, by pretendvision, by lievision, can you really trust that one good thing to be the real thing? And with outfits like Fox News imitating Pravda, can you trust any news channel?

So, my television is gone, and I’m doing fine without it. The noise in the air is gone and the tumult of noise in my head is gone. I’ve got reality settling in all around me now, and it’s a little banal and it’s pleasant and I think I’ll stick with it. And there’s no commercials to screw it up.


25 Responses

  1. Good for you Ric. I’d do the same thing if it were not for my wife and daughter. They’d howl. And it’s interesting that you use the word “noise” to describe it. It’s exactly what I think of it.

    Sometimes I walk in the house and there are three TVs going at once. Because of the signal difference between the HD and the regular channels on two TVs withing audio distance of each other, they are out of sync, so it sounds like a huge echo machine from certain vantage points. I walk through the house systematically turning them all off, because it’s just intrusive noise. Then my wife and daughter notice and turn them back on. Drives me nuts.

    Years ago I stopped watching them on a regular basis. I go to the living room, where there is no TV, but two of those little styrene earplugs in my ears and read a book. Now That’s Entertainment! My wife finds it insulting because she thinks I’m trying to shut her out, but really, it’s just the noise from the TV that bother’s me. When it’s off, I don’t need the earplugs.

    I occasionally will sit with my wife in the evening while she watches a program, but I usually have a book in my lap, and sometimes even the aforementioned earplugs.

    Now, think of how much more you’re going to read. And write. 😉


    • I got rid of the wives years ago. Now, without television, my life is complete. 🙂


  2. For me, TV is for movies. I get what I want news wise by reading and watching online. The past few weeks, I’ve been using episodes of good tv dramas online to fall asleep. I like the tv, but I like it on my terms. And that makes all the difference. 🙂


    • Apparently you’re not addicted. But some night, when you’ve fallen asleep to a television drama, the tube will reach out its electronic amoeba, touch your skull, and suck your brain out.

      Don’t say you weren’t warned.


  3. Great post, Ric. I haven’t gotten rid of our TVs, but I rarely watch anything on them. I’m too busy doing other things – like actually living my own life instead of watching other people pretending to live fake lives – to pay much attention to the big boxes.


    • Living your own life? How dare you!


  4. The only time I really enjoy TV is when they have a good old program on – like lately TV Land has been showing Dick Van Dyke episodes. Still funny, even today. Beats the silly sitcoms of today!


  5. More power, comrade. I could never do it. I’m hopelessly addicted.


    • But we can cure you at one of our world-unreknowned psychiatric hospitals. We have a number of programs, including what I know is your favorite, the electroshock and champagne treatment. You’re gonna love it. I’ll check in on you a couple of times a year to see how you’re doing and catch you up on the office gossip and the new Minsk operation.


  6. I’m finding that more and more, the ‘tube’ is only making me depressed, agitated, or down-right angry. Good for you for going cold turkey on TV.


    • Hey, who you calling a turkey?!

      But yeah, quitting it makes a world of difference in my perception of the world and thus in my reactions to events. I really couldn’t stand myself when I watched television. Now I’m finding that I’m a nice, peaceable, likeable fellow (as long as I don’t have to deal with real people either).


  7. I thought I was hopelessly addicted until I moved, changed from satellite to cable, missed some episodes of my shows from the DVR not working, and found out it didn’t actually matter if Michael, Fiona, and Sam saved some schmuck or the agents at Warehouse 13 found an artifact or the Psyche detective agency stumbled upon a murder, blah, blah, blah. I dumped the DVR, dropped the cable, and haven’t suffered a bit. The quiet is restful and no earplugs are necessary.


    • Yes, the quiet is resssszzzzzzzzzz….

      And Fiona does matter! Somehow, somewhere, Fiona matters.


  8. Allons-Y Ric, but I could not do it. Beside my love of the NFL, which shall forever solidify my knuckle dragging status on your site, I must have my Dr. Who.


    • I really need to learn how to use punctuation properly. My conservative insanity at work I suppose…..


    • I’d forgotten about Dr. Who. But then at my age I’m not sure I want to continue watching the adventures of a young guy who may never die. And I know I don’t want to spend time watching NFL football, which would surely bore me to a premature death.

      If you put bandaids on your knuckles they’ll hurt less from all the scraping along the ground. 🙂


  9. Never forget “The Dr”!
    Or he will come back and erase your timeline 🙂


    • What?! He knows I have Dalek blood?!?


      • Oh yes Ric, he knows………. He knows indeed…………


        • Oh damn! Wait a min…. I have a call…. sorry, pal, have to take this call… it’s The Master. Something about a plot to take down the Doctor… what, what? Really? Wiring his jaw shut so he can’t talk so fast and bamboozle so many? Dying his hair orange, too? Oh boy!


          • LOL. Classic. Sorry, off to buy a nice long scarf and perm my hair.


            • Do you think that was Tom Baker’s real hair?


  10. I seriously hope not, but I assumed it was.


    • I wasn’t too sure about his nose, either.

      Did you see that Elisabeth Sladen died a little while ago?


      • Yeah I did. That was about two moths, or so ago, if I recall. I was pointing her out in the End of Time episode last year to my wife. When they brought back all the old companions I had to explain them to her as she never saw the old Drs. They dedicated on of the episodes this year to her, but I don’t remember which one it was.


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