Although I live in Canada, I have always lived close to the border and was suckled on American TV and still am to this day. So most of what is written here pertains primarily to American television, and secondarily to TV in general.
I’m an expert on television. Why? Because I have been watching it for most of my entire life and I have been writing about it on and off for most of my adult life.
When you have as much experience as I do with television you start to understand just how powerful a medium it is. In fact, other than electric shock, television is the most persuasive medium ever invented by man.
Back in the day, television was a lot more benign than it used to be, because society itself was a lot more moral and prone to conformity.
Television really became a widely viewed and widely used medium back in the 1950s. And in the beginning it really was more or less, a step up from radio programming. The big difference was the visual element. And as time went by that proved to be huge.
Television was primarily created as both an entertainment medium (to sell televisions) and a commercial medium to sell a lot of the products that the everyday housewife used, well, every day.
As the power of television advertising increased, and became a more effective medium, the cost of advertising production went up and the production values of the programming increased in tandem.
Television offered a wide range of entertainment, even back then. There were incredibly popular variety shows, there were great comedies, soap operas and a number of theatrical presentations as well, which showcased the work of playwrights and screenwriters.
The PR Bonanza
Though television had always been seen as an outstanding advertising medium, a number of other industries started to realize huge benefits from TV as a public relations tool.
The record industry benefited in large ways from the guest appearances of their stars. It wasn’t long before the music industry started creating its own programming and star system (Kate Smith, Perry Como, Andy Williams, Dean Martin etc.), all of which featured other musical guests from their labels. Late night and daytime talks shows were also instrumental PR tools for promoting TV shows, movies, music, and comedy.
TV was, and still is (despite whatever you feel about the Internet) the most ingenious, durable, flexible and powerful marketing tool ever created.
In fact you could ague that television’s persuasiveness as a PR tool was actually even more powerful than it’s clout as an advertising medium.
The Upside Turned Down
It’s hard to say exactly when it started but television’s power as a PR and advertising medium also made it a perfect vehicle to shape public opinion in a political sense.
You could say there was always a little of that going on since the advent of television news programming. But it really came to the fore in the seventies when the counterculture movement in the US and the anti-Vietnam protests were in full swing.
The entertainment industries have always been much more liberal than conservative, and used TV as their medium of choice to get their anti-war/anti-government messages across.
On the other side of the coin, the governments of the day found themselves turning to TV to counter all the protest messages that were coming from the left.
And the war was on. And it has been raging for more than 40 years now.
The Net Effects
I’m not sure the people who invented television and participated in the development of it early on, actually realized what a tiger they had by the tail with this medium, or the kind of monster it would grow into.
I’m also not sure they would have been too thrilled to discover that it would ultimately be used as a form of brainwashing, conditioning people to accept certain things as true just because they were on TV.
I also think they might have been shocked to realize that the escalation of violence in TV programming would very much be the key to numbing people to the real effects of violence in the world, and likewise create a heightened sense of fear that the military industrial complex needed to keep on trucking.
On TV, heroes and even some bad guys get shot and then manage to carry on regardless. If a normal person ever got shot by anything more powerful than a .22 virtually anywhere on their body, the trauma and pain of that injury would immediately send them into shock.
I also think the inventors of TV might have shaken their heads at the idea that serious personal or romantic conflicts are able to somehow resolve themselves in a very short span of time in order to make the TV dramas work.
This creates a tremendous sense of unreality that can lead to serious emotional problems in people whose expectations are shaped by the non-reality of TV.
Now I know that some of you are shaking your heads and thinking, well TV would never have that kind of effect on me, I know it’s all fantasy and fiction and has nothing to do with reality.
And you would be right….if you are lucky enough to be in the 20% of the TV watchers who get that. But the sad part is that the majority of people out there, really aren’t that bright and they have been kept that way, in great part, by the skillfully conditioned belief that just about everything they see on TV is real.
How Not Bright Are People?
Well if you are in the 20% who gets it, then you are probably in the same 20% of the people who see a clown like Donald Trump for what he really is, which is a sociopathic, sexist, racist, narcissist with delusions of grandeur.
But Trump is also a TV performer who knows how to put on a show, and that’s what we have been watching for the past 18 months. He lies all the time because he is actually smart enough to know that if you lie on TV, you may get called out for it, but also, and sadly, a lot of people will believe you.
People who don’t get that think he’s someone to be admired because he speaks his mind and they follow him blindly. And why do they feel that way? Because they have long ago been conditioned, very much like Pavlov’s dogs, to believe that if they saw it on TV it must be true.
So while TV has been a huge idea for more than 60 years now, it’s also a huge persuader, influencer, mind-number and propaganda carrier.
And the trouble is that it mostly works on you subconsciously, so if you’re not keeping an eye peeled for the corrosive stuff, it could easily get into your head and get you believing in a lot of shit you otherwise would not.
You don’t have to be stupid to get hoodwinked by TV. But if you are stupid, you can be pretty certain that’s what will happen.
This, of course, is all just my opinion as a fairly avid watcher of and writer about TV. You are always free to form your own, if you are in the 20% of people who actually think for themselves.
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