Couch potato rant: The idiot box

Adam Rensch and Adam Rensch

By Adam Rensch Guest Columnist

In 1924, years before the first television broadcast, Adolf Hitler began dictating what would become his most powerful work, a multi-volume collection of his political ideologies that would prove a major catalyst for World War II.

In this book, Mein Kampf, he claims that “the broad masses of the population are more amenable to rhetoric than to any other force.” Now, I do not claim to be an expert on television or its influence, but I see its capabilities of power and persuasion on every channel.

It has been years since I have had a television in my possession. Yet, despite my fervent attempts to avoid it, I nevertheless find myself in proximity with this device so many have come to accept as a necessity. Often I am asked, “If you don’t own a television, what do you do all the time?” I have never really been sure how to respond, exactly. It has always just seemed so apparent that there are more ways to stimulate the mind than this.

The Idiot Box.

The Babysitter.

Call it what you may, but there is no euphemism in my mind that justifies the ritualistic loss of intelligence and integrity involved with viewing the contents of a television. It pacifies the mind. It is, for all intents and purposes, a drug, though there will never be a “War on Television.” Actually there is” several of them to be precise, but that discussion is for another time.

So, what is it about television I find so atrocious? Ultimately” everything. For the sake of this monologue, however, I will say that it is its ability to persuade and appeal to emotions unlike any other medium.

Take for example, the genre of Reality TV. I am not familiar with the vast and expansive number of shows that fall within this category, but I have been subjected to enough to understand their detrimental potential. It never ceases to amaze me how these shows captivate viewers into a state of such incapacitation, rendering their abilities to perform as a functioning member of society.

What’s more, the content is so mindless and simple. It is almost embarrassing to admit I am a member of a society which finds this drivel entertaining. Essentially, each show is simply a dramatic representation of something that wasn’t very dramatic in the first place.

The hook, the part I find so vile, is disguised neatly in the production. Most importantly, it is the music that makes these shows so addictive. It is powerful, and it has a profound effect on the viewer.

Watch these shows on mute sometime, and you will discover that all of this allure is lost. They are absolutely void of depth and meaning, and are actually quite boring. However, the directors implore this constant use of music to heighten tension, plucking at the tender strings of your heart in just the right way to leave you wanting more. You need the resolve. You crave it. The desire becomes almost insatiable, and it is orchestrated like some sadistic experiment for old, rich men who sit around and scheme ways to exert their power.

The saddest part is that people actually schedule their lives around these shows, so dubbed “reality,” which are really just edited from countless hours of footage and scripted material. Our culture is ravenous for these shows, the prospect of watching real people, people we can identify with, entangled in these “real” dilemmas. We feel for them, we feed off of their struggles, and we become immersed in their lives as if they were our own. After all, they’re just like us, right?

Actually, we’re just being duped.

A big lie, Hitler said, is more believable than a small one. Television, its power, and its implementation, make this statement true. So congratulation to all, from the executives who run the business to your neighbor who never leaves the house; Hitler would be so proud.