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We Are Constantly Subjected to the Drip, Drip, Drip Of

We Are Constantly Subjected to the Drip, Drip, Drip Of

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08/08/2013

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ffi"a
assage
A
1
Weare
constantly
subjected
to the
drip, drip,
drip
of
arguments
and
concerns
in
the
media
aboutspecific
aspects
of television.
Perhaps
youread last week about
a
newconnection
between
television viewing
and
obesity;
today,you
may
hear
of
another controversy
about
televisionviolence; tomorrow,
a
study
looking
at the effects
of
television
on
oursocial skills
will
bepublished.
But
debatehas focused on
the
narrowerand
in many
ways safer
issue
of the messages relayed
by
television
as
opposed
to
the wider
issue
of
the
medium itself. Yes,
we
are watching
too much,but there
is
far
more to
this
issue
that
we
are not
aware
of
2
To
some,
this
devotion
to
television
means simply
that
people
enjoy
watching television
and
make
a
conscious
decision
to
watch
it.
Nowadays
this
is
couched
inthe
invitinglanguage
of'lifestyle'
and
'choice'.But
if
this
is
true,why
is it
that
so
manypeople
experience
misgivings
about
how
much
television
they watch?
Researchers
in
Japan,
the
US
and
ihe
UK
have even
identifled
a
middle-class
guilt
arising
from
knowing
that
youwatch toomuch
television
instead of doingsomethinqmoreproductive.
3
To
consider
television
as
habit-forming is
an
understatement.
WhydoesColumbia University Professor
Jeffrey
Johnson,
whohas
pdblished
a
number of key studies
on
the effects
of
television,
declare that'televisionis
highly
addictive'?
Why
would anyone consciouslychoose
to watch
a
television screen
for
twelve
yearsof their life?
lf
our
relationshipwerewith a substance
as
opposed
to
a
screen,
we would
be
talking in termsof
abuse,
overdose and
going
coldtelly.
Even
so called sex addiction
is
a
more
readily
accepted
concept.
We
would
not
watch
this
muchtelevision unless
there
were
powerful physiological
mechanisms
at work-ls the cosy expression
'telly
addiction' really
an
overstatement?
4
Reconsidering
the
role
of
television
in
our
lives is inconvenient.
We
like
to
slobout after
a
hard
day
and
we
use
television
to
occupy
our children
in
order
to
buy
us
some
time
for
ourselves.
However,
unlike
straightforward
health
debates,a
/a
Fast Food
Nation,
whereadditives,contaminating
agents
and
hidden
fats
can
be
revealed
and
blamed
directly
for
causing
cancer,heart
disease
and food
poisoning,television's route to harm
is
more
covert
and hitherto difficult
to
explain.Yet anotherproblem
in
evaluatingthe effects
of television
is
the
sheer
lack of
controlgroups
to
provide
a
point
of
comparison.
lt
seems
that
everyonehasgone
to
the
movies.
5
Perhaps
the
biggest
obstaele
to
having
an honest look
at theeffects oftelevision
is the
simplefact
that
we
enjoy watching
it.
Criticising
our
main
wakingactivity, aside from work,tends
to
bring about
a
selectivedeafness,along
with
an
inclination
to
shoot
the
messenqer.
Yet
if
we
based our healthpolicies
on
how much
we
enjoy
things,
hospital
waiting
lists
wouldbe even longer thanthey are
now.
Whether
it
is
sunbathing,drinking alcohol, smoking
in
the family sittingroom
or
eating
junk
food,
1015
253035
 
we enjoy
lots
of
thingsthat are, aftera
ceilain
point,bad for us
or
farthe
resi
of
society.
That
js
precisely
why
we
recogniseconcepts
such
as
units of alcohol,
sunblock
SPF,cholesterol
levels,
passivesmoking
and
body lveight.
Envisage
a
lime
when
wewill
finally
talk
in
terms
of
recommended
limits
t'or
hours
per
day ofscreen time.
This
stateof
afairs
isreminiscent
of
how
ihe tobacco
industrymanaged
for
years
to
claim
that
peopleenjoyedsmokingand
that
there
waJno
definitiveproofthat cigarettesmokingactuallycausedlung cancer
_
that
there
wasonly
an
association
beiween
the
two,
noi
a
causativerelationship.
The
industry'sscientisis
were
alsopressured
to
cover
up
the
findings
that
nicotine
was
addictive.
lna
similarway,
the
sugar
industry
is
successfully
funding
and
pressuring
World
He;lth
Organisationscieniists
to
issue
internationalguidelines
and
reports
that
cover up
the
stronglink
betur'een
refined
sugarand
diabetes,obesity
and death.
The
most
influential
arena
of
all
television
-
is
hardly
likely
to
broadcast
bad
medical press
about itselfand
contribute
io
its
own
demise.There is a suryival
instinct
withinmostpowerful
industrieswith
prediciableresponses
to
thosewho
question
their
virtues:
'
.._
this
is
merelyspeculation
-
there's no
definitive
proof'.Those
whodo
advise
a
beiter
safe-than,sorryapproach
are
predictablyreferred
to
as
being
:rlarmist,over-reacting
or
jumping
the
gun.
A
slock
answer
is:
.it'stooearly
to
conclude...
there'sno empirical
basis
for theseassertions'.The
mostpopular
refrain
is:
'This
presents
a
one-dimensional
analysisofielevisionas
the
cause
of somany
problems,
it,s
too
easy
to
blameone
thing
for
society'sproblems...'lt
isreassuring
to
accept
thistype
of
soothingbalm as
it
excuses
us
from
having
to
change
a
comfortabieandfundarnental part
of
theway we
live.
There
is
also thegritty
reality
of
academicfundingand
image.
There
is
little
money, funding
and
publicgratitude
in
looking
for
the
negative
effects
of the
television
screen.
lt
is
far
easier
and
safer
to
eiplore
avenues
ihat
seemto acquittelevisionor,betteryet,seek out
its
virtues.Centres
for
media studies,
which
producemost
of
the
researchabouttelevision,
seem
curiously
prone
to
sitting
onthe fence,
so
it
is
hardly
surprising
that
the
incriminatingresearchconcerningtelevisioncomes
from
outsidetheirjurisdiction.
lt
isoften
studies
thatfocusupon
healthratherthan televisionthathappen
upon
worrying
linksbetweenthe two.Finally,
there
areother reasonswhy
we
havenot
had
ihe
biqdebate
Vet.
Televrsion
is
a
culturalforceequalled
in
history
only
by
reliqion,
so
should
we be
surprised
that the
media
and
governmenthave
stood
jn
the
way
of
a
forensic
examination?
After
all
both need
us
-
the
bewilderedherd
-
to
continuetotake ourcue fromthe screen
45
505560
65
70
75
BO
85
Adaptedfrom"Remotely
Controiled,'by
Arig
Sigman
 
Passage
B
'1
Television turns out to be a brilliant mediumfor assessing otherpeople'semotional intelligence
-
apropertythat
is
toooften
ignored
when
criticsevaluate
the
medium's
carrylng
capacity
for thoughtfulcomment.
Part
ofthis
neglect stems
from
lhe
age-old
opposition
beh/veen
intelligenceand
emotion: intelligence
is
following
a
chess
match
or
imparting
a
sophisticated
rhetorical
argument on a matter
of
public
policy;emotions
are
the
province
of
soap
operas.
But
countless
studies
have
demonslrated
ihe
pivotal
role
that
emotional
intelligence
,
plays
in
seemingly high-minded
arenas:
business,
law and
politics.
Anyprofession
that
involves
regular
interaction
withother
people
willplace
a
high
premium
on
mind-reading
and
emotional
lQ.
Of allthe
mediaavailable
to
ustoday,
television
is uniquely
suited for
conveying
the
flnegradients
of
these
social skills.
A
book
willgiveyou
a
better vista
of
an
individual's
life story, and
a
newspaper
op-ed
is
a
better format
for
a
riggrous argument,
but
if
you
are trying
to
evaluate
a
given
person's
emotional
lQ
and
you
do
not have
the
option of sitting down with
them
in
person,
the
tightfocus
of
television
is
yourbest
bet.
Reality
programminghassimply recognised
that
intrinsic strength
and built
a
wholegenrearound
it.
2
Politics
too,
has
gravitated
toward
the
television medium's
emotionalfluency.
This
is often
deridedasa
coarsening
or sentimentalising of
the
politicaidiscourse,
tuming
the
rationaldebate
over
different
political
agendas
into
a
Jerry
Springer confessional.
The days
of
the
Lincoln
Douglas debates have
givenway
to'Boxers
or
briefs?"
The
late
Neil
Postmandescribed
this
sorry trend
as
the
show-businessification of
poliiics
in
his
influential
1985 book,
Amusrtg
Ourse/ves
to
Death.
ln
Postman's view,
television
is
a
medium
of
cosmetics,
of
surfaces,
an
endlessreplay
of the
Nixon-Kennedy debates, where
the
guy
with
ihebest makeupalways wins.
3
But the visibility of the medium extends
beyond
hairstylesand skintone.
When
we
see our
politicians
in
the
globalliving room
of
televisedintimacy,
we are
not able
to
detect
moreprofound qualitiesin them:
not
just
their
grooming,
but
their
emotionalantennae
-
their
ability
to
connect,
outfox,
condemn
or
console.
We
seethem
as
emotionalmindreaders, and there are few
qualities
in
an
individual
more
predictive
of
their ability
to
governa
country,
because
mindreading
is so
central
to
the
art
of
persuasion.Presidents make formal appearances
and
sit
for
portraits
and
hostgalas,
but
their
day-to-day
jobis
moiivating
and
persuadingotherpeople
to follow their
lead.
To motivate and
persuade,
you
have
to
havean innate
radar
for
otherpeople'smental states.
For
an
ordinary
voter,
it
is
almost
impossible
toget
a
sense
for
a
given
candidate's emotional
radar without seeing
them
in
person,
in
an
unscripted setting.Youcannotget
a
sense of a
candidate's
mindreadingskills by watching them
givea
memorised stump
speech,
or seeingtheirthirty-second ads, or God
knows
reading
their
caripaign
blogposis.
But
what
does
give
you
ihatkind of
information is
the
one-onone
television
10
15
20
25
30
4045

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