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Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television

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A total departure from previous writing about television, this book is the first ever to advocate that the medium is not reformable. Its problems are inherent in the technology itself and are so dangerous -- to personal health and sanity, to the environment, and to democratic processes -- that TV ought to be eliminated forever. Weaving personal experiences through meticulou A total departure from previous writing about television, this book is the first ever to advocate that the medium is not reformable. Its problems are inherent in the technology itself and are so dangerous -- to personal health and sanity, to the environment, and to democratic processes -- that TV ought to be eliminated forever. Weaving personal experiences through meticulous research, the author ranges widely over aspects of television that have rarely been examined and never before joined together, allowing an entirely new, frightening image to emerge. The idea that all technologies are "neutral," benign instruments that can be used well or badly, is thrown open to profound doubt. Speaking of TV reform is, in the words of the author, "as absurd as speaking of the reform of a technology such as guns."


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A total departure from previous writing about television, this book is the first ever to advocate that the medium is not reformable. Its problems are inherent in the technology itself and are so dangerous -- to personal health and sanity, to the environment, and to democratic processes -- that TV ought to be eliminated forever. Weaving personal experiences through meticulou A total departure from previous writing about television, this book is the first ever to advocate that the medium is not reformable. Its problems are inherent in the technology itself and are so dangerous -- to personal health and sanity, to the environment, and to democratic processes -- that TV ought to be eliminated forever. Weaving personal experiences through meticulous research, the author ranges widely over aspects of television that have rarely been examined and never before joined together, allowing an entirely new, frightening image to emerge. The idea that all technologies are "neutral," benign instruments that can be used well or badly, is thrown open to profound doubt. Speaking of TV reform is, in the words of the author, "as absurd as speaking of the reform of a technology such as guns."

30 review for Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television

  1. 4 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    Nothing To See Here. Move Along. It is instructive to read Jerry Mander’s* analysis of the evils of television written more than 40 years ago and after more than 20 years of experience with the progressive replacement of television by the internet. Mander clearly couldn’t anticipate the technological developments that would make his criticism appear naively old hat: “I came to the conclusion that like other modern technologies which now surround our lives, advertising, television and most mass Nothing To See Here. Move Along. It is instructive to read Jerry Mander’s* analysis of the evils of television written more than 40 years ago and after more than 20 years of experience with the progressive replacement of television by the internet. Mander clearly couldn’t anticipate the technological developments that would make his criticism appear naively old hat: “I came to the conclusion that like other modern technologies which now surround our lives, advertising, television and most mass media predetermine their own ultimate use and effect. In the end, I became horrified by them, as I observed the aberrations which they inevitably create in the world.” Oh for the good old days! His concern, of course, is understandable. We have exactly the same ones today. Communications technology does change society in entirely unanticipated ways. Yet we seem to be trapped by it. Mander knew he was whistling in the dark. Television could not be eliminated. And although he couldn’t predict the future, he could easily have known about the past with its extensive catalogue of technologies which had done exactly what he feared. If he had investigated these, he then might have concluded that it was not television that we should be worried about but something far more fundamental... and insidious. Just a few examples to establish the pattern clearly: before television there was radio. Early adopters included such notables as Huey Long, the populist boss of Louisiana; and Father Coglin, the fascist Catholic priest. They epitomise the transformation of the political and religious world by radio during the 1930’s. Their pioneering work showed that radio was the future for making money in both. The journalist Dorothy Thompson, the Jerry Mander of the day, responding to the national panic created by the 1938 broadcast of the War of the Worlds by Orson Welles, wrote that this “proved how easy it is to start a mass delusion.” But then dig just a bit deeper into history. The 19th century after the American Civil War is considered by many to be the Golden Age of newspaper journalism. The penny post had matured around the world to become the dominant instrument of social media. It was, like radio and television after it, big business. Whatever its social benefit, newspapers also rigged elections, started wars, and callously ruined reputations. Edwin Lawrence Godkin, editor of The Nation in the 1890’s, sounds remarkably like Mander: “As soon as [the newspaper] became a business, ... the sense of proportion about news was rapidly destroyed. Everything, however trifling, was considered worth printing, and the newspaper finally became what it is now, a collection of gossip.” And dangerous gossip at that. Charles Dickens dubbed New York papers the morning‟s “New York Sewer,” “Stabber,” “Private Listener,” and “Peeper.” And of course these are not problems particular to modernity. Gutenberg was accused of “spreading the word of God like muck” among lay believers with his relatively inexpensive printings of the Bible in the 15th century. John Wycliffe was branded a heretic by Parliament in the 14th century for daring to translate the Bible into a language that folk could actually understand. In the 8th century, church authorities, through the Emperor Constantine, went as far as condemning the technology of painting as aberrant and socially disruptive. This is explicit in the minutes of the Council of Heirio in 754, which refers to "the unlawful art of painting living creatures which blasphemes the fundamental doctrine of our salvation--namely, the Incarnation of Christ, and contradicted the six holy synods. ... If anyone shall endeavour to represent the forms of the Saints in lifeless pictures with material colours which are of no value (for this notion is vain and introduced by the devil), and does not rather represent their virtues as living images in himself, etc. ... let him be anathema." The New England Puritans continued this noble tradition. See the pattern? Each of these technologies is indeed fundamentally disruptive. It is then absorbed, as it were, into the disrupted society and the more or less forgotten about. The new technologies become not just a non-issue but essentially invisible as successor technologies come along. Keep pursuing the trail far enough and one comes up against the technological myths of origin. In Western European civilisation (there are analogous ones in the Orient), these include Hebrew as the language of God himself, whose very alphabet is of divine significance; and the ancient Greek idea of the Platonic Forms, which the precision of the Greek language was intended to reveal. The socially disruptive consequences of these technologies persist until today - not least of which is an entire Judaea-Christian-Islamic culture - yet we take these technologies for granted since they are fully assimilated. What? Language as technology? Well yes, isn’t it apparent. Every technological development from the internet back through television, radio, mass media newspapers, printing, translating, and even iconography is an extension of one phenomenon - human language. Every one of these depends upon the progressive accumulations of language we call science, engineering, and art. And every one then uses language as its mode d’emploi in the society in which it finds itself. Language is the source-technology from which all the others have emerged. Technology means literally the ‘craft of the word’ (τέχνη + λόγος). And every significant change in this technology has had a fundamental impact on the political, religious, and social relations among the people who use it. But this is precisely the point that Mander, as well as all the present-day pundits of high-tech, seem to miss. The fundamental issue isn’t machines, electronic or otherwise, it is the core, the matrix, the soul (as it were) of these machines, that is to say: language. Mander’s Canute-like call to halt the tide of television was even more useless than he realised. His real battle was with language itself not a social system of broadcasting which he found to be false. His worry, for example, that television promotes our transformation into the images we see on the screen was a fait accompli at least as long ago as the start of the Holocene, and probably 50,000 to 100,000 years before that - just about the same time that one primitive hunter told his mate what the next valley looked like, thereby mediating direct experience. Every development in language-based technology (actually, all technology) produces the same cultural trauma. Yet this trauma looks new because we’ve adapted so completely to the previous ones. It’s as if language itself is in control. It hides itself in plain sight. The only time we even notice it is when its form changes. But even then we become obsessed with the machines rather than their real substance. As Martin Heidegger quipped, it appears that “Language speaks Man,” not vice versa. And there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. Language is our Original Sin. We inherit it and pass it on, in all its forms from washing powder to jet aircraft. We can’t criticise it without becoming even more dependent upon it. It owns us - yesterday in the form of television, today in the form of the internet, tomorrow who knows. But we are effectively its creature. Language and its subsidiary technologies always re-shape the people who use it. These technologies also are the prime target for those who wish to control others. They are always subject to commercial interests, at least some of which are destructive. In short, language not television is the real culprit Mander should have attacked. But, of course, he couldn’t, not without using language. And then who would believe him? It’s a bit like accusing your mother of your own abortion. * Yes, really his name. I suspect he had parents hopeful for his success in elected office.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Evan

    A few ideas were so surprising that I had to put the book down and think about them for a while before I could read on. Even though it was written thirty years ago, not a word has dated. Mander unwittingly analyzed not just television, but all electronic media, the ambient tech environment that we're in like fish in water. Even if you disagree with the title, his mode of thinking about how mass media work is so original that the book is worth it. Unpretentious, nimble, broad-minded, and astonishin A few ideas were so surprising that I had to put the book down and think about them for a while before I could read on. Even though it was written thirty years ago, not a word has dated. Mander unwittingly analyzed not just television, but all electronic media, the ambient tech environment that we're in like fish in water. Even if you disagree with the title, his mode of thinking about how mass media work is so original that the book is worth it. Unpretentious, nimble, broad-minded, and astonishing. Loved it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Feliks

    This guy rams a size-12, hob-nailed, steel-shanked Timberland work-boot right up the diseased sphincter that is our mindless American television culture. He stomps his way up the communal colon and wrecks every twisting-and-turning where so many of our neighbors choose to reside. Doesn't leave a single nerve-ending intact. This expose' is stellar, and the perfect antidote to anyone you know who is addicted to hours of TV every day. They will have no rebuttal to reply with once you apprise them o This guy rams a size-12, hob-nailed, steel-shanked Timberland work-boot right up the diseased sphincter that is our mindless American television culture. He stomps his way up the communal colon and wrecks every twisting-and-turning where so many of our neighbors choose to reside. Doesn't leave a single nerve-ending intact. This expose' is stellar, and the perfect antidote to anyone you know who is addicted to hours of TV every day. They will have no rebuttal to reply with once you apprise them of the facts this man unveils. The author is a former PR man who spent 15 yrs in one of the top advertising agencies in the land. Eventually what he saw there, sickened him so much he defected. I don't blame him. In fact, I applaud him. He's ferocious; and this book is SCATHING . One of the best dissections of an outright catastrophe I've read in yrs. Love it! This is one of those writings which turns on a giant lightbulb in your brain. In this case, a whole power plant. Now, it's as rare as hen's teeth that I issue any book these days a 5-star rating. My 5-star shelf has been untouched for years. But this work by Mander is so crucial to recognize, that I am immediately giving it that honor. It's also one of the few books I've started casually recommending to people; something else I usually never bother to do. What else can I say? This is my highest endorsement. TV culture is killing us, and Mander explains exactly how and precisely why.

  4. 5 out of 5

    hanna

    This book was a testament to everything that is inherently wrong with television. I don't watch tv (surprise to everyone I meet who asks if I've catched the latest episode of scandal) because to be really REALLY honest, I can't sit down for more then 10 minutes straight without getting fidgety and commercials have always pissed me off. I would be wondering why a woman eating chocolate sensually is supposed to make me want to buy chocolate? Why is she moaning, I mean it's just chocolate for fucks This book was a testament to everything that is inherently wrong with television. I don't watch tv (surprise to everyone I meet who asks if I've catched the latest episode of scandal) because to be really REALLY honest, I can't sit down for more then 10 minutes straight without getting fidgety and commercials have always pissed me off. I would be wondering why a woman eating chocolate sensually is supposed to make me want to buy chocolate? Why is she moaning, I mean it's just chocolate for fucksake. All these question marks would be shooting out of my head and then I'd wonder if it's just me and not the commercial that is fucked up. YOU SEE TV MADE ME SELF CONSCIOUS! Also when I was younger it made me want all the cool toys. Like hey the cool white girl is sporting a tamagotchi, "MOM I NEED A TAMAGOTCHI!" Although my father I should add was a practically a hippie & lover of conspiracy theories, he banned tv from our home and claimed it would "brainwash" us, I wasn't buying it so I nagged and nagged for years till I got my way when I turned 11. It was a miracle to see that shiny square box in the living room, I was so ecstatic. Who cares if I didn't have cable and had only 15 channels to choose between? I was like everyone else now, I could go to class and ask Star if she seen the latest episode of Arthur and we could laugh together. But did I mention my attention span issue? After a while I stopped liking TV (my dad was happy), so I would go to the park to play with other kids. Okay I'm getting off topic, why is it whenever I want to write a review I end up throwing out traumatized life memoir vibes? Ugh. So this book scarred me, I will probably never forget the arguments that were so worrisome I was questioning the last time I seen an ad and whether I could remember it (do youtube ads count)? One of my cons of TV (or media consumption I should say) he says is passivity, people just don't care enough to interfere in anything. *Sees girl being mugged* You shrug and walk away. *Witnesses insane car collision* Eats pizza and walks away. *Sees man drowning* Takes a video of him and tweets #WTFISHAPPENING #ISTHISREALLIFE. Keep in mind all of the examples I just used were REAL life events and the results were also just as real. The last one of the guy drowning was actually quite recent and it took place in Amsterdam, every person stood by to watch and take videos/pictures except ONE man who ironically ended up a Syrian refugee. The very people we see vilified day in and day out, the backwards Moslem "savages". Everything in this book is thought provoking and although a lot is outdated, it is still relevant. 40 years later, TV is no longer in just TV, it's accessible from almost everywhere with a network connection and a gadget. So yeah you could say our media is pretty much controlling the way we lead our lives. I probably won't start watching TV or using social media anytime soon. I like feeling like a cavegirl cut off from the world. It makes me happy, naive and human just like our ancestors.

  5. 4 out of 5

    jeremy

    the classic anti-tv book, well written and convincing. not merely a "television makes you stupid" diatribe, but rather a logical, compelling, researched argument against the medium and its effects on personal health, mental well-being, environment, and democracy. questions whether technology can ever really be inherently "neutral." probably more important now than when it was written three decades ago. "television: a medium - so called because it is neither rare nor well done." ~ernie kovacs "i wi the classic anti-tv book, well written and convincing. not merely a "television makes you stupid" diatribe, but rather a logical, compelling, researched argument against the medium and its effects on personal health, mental well-being, environment, and democracy. questions whether technology can ever really be inherently "neutral." probably more important now than when it was written three decades ago. "television: a medium - so called because it is neither rare nor well done." ~ernie kovacs "i wish there were a knob on the tv to turn up the intelligence. there's a knob called 'brightness,' but that doesn't work." ~unknown

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michael Perkins

    “Those who say they give the public what it wants begin by underestimating public taste, and end by debauching it.” (T.S. Eliot) “Life doesn't imitate art, it imitates bad television.” (Woody Allen) This book was published in 1978, sound familiar? "the problem was too much information. The population was being inundated with conflicting versions of increasingly complex events. People were giving up on understanding anything. The glut of information was dulling awareness, not aiding it. Overload. It “Those who say they give the public what it wants begin by underestimating public taste, and end by debauching it.” (T.S. Eliot) “Life doesn't imitate art, it imitates bad television.” (Woody Allen) This book was published in 1978, sound familiar? "the problem was too much information. The population was being inundated with conflicting versions of increasingly complex events. People were giving up on understanding anything. The glut of information was dulling awareness, not aiding it. Overload. It encouraged passivity, not involvement." I think what has happened since, is that many have gravitated to sources, e.g. Fox News and MSNBC, that they already agree with, but remain passive when it comes to critical thinking. I am re-watching the Ken Burns' documentary on the Vietnam War and this book brought back to mind the segments in the documentary showing pre-emptive Presidential news conferences broadcast across all channels on TV in which both LBJ and, later, Nixon, utterly lied through their teeth about the war. Big Brother, indeed. "the Gulf of Tonkin incident never happened, but it was carried as legitimate by every news outlet. That convinced both Congress and the public and gave Johnson the approval he needed to escalate the Vietnam War. This event was later exposed as only one of the many non-events pushed through the media to sell us that war.....a cause for serious alarm about the power of the media to pursue fictitious realities." How about Colin Powell's fake U.N. presentation that he now regrets? Once considered a possible Presidential candidate. he's now persona non grata. But it was essentially the same Tonkin lie per Iraq. "Television [or any other technological medium] is not "neutral." If you accept the existence of advertising, you accept a system designed to persuade and to dominate minds by interfering in people’s thinking patterns. You also accept that the system will be used by the sorts of people who like to influence people and are good at it." Having grown up with TV in the way the author describes it, it's easy to forget its social impact. For years after my in-laws retired, they sat in their barco-loungers for hours every day watching whatever happened to be on rather than, say, socializing with church friends. The author observes that we too easily allow TV (and now other technology, of course. VR anyone?) to mediate reality as a substitute for personal experience. I recently learned that far more people watch cooking shows than actually cook. The last time I went to the dentist, they had a cooking show on in the waiting room. I asked one of the staff about it and she said: "I find it comforting." I recall my daughter used to actually bake cookies instead. The same can be said for watching nature specials, but never getting out to a county park. "Separate people from each other. Reduce interpersonal communication through life-styles that emphasize separateness. When people gather together, be sure it is for a prearranged experience that occupies all their attention at once. Spectator sports are excellent, so are circuses, elections, and any spectacles in which focus is outward and interpersonal exchange is subordinated to mass experience." I would also add movies. We don't go very often, but I always feel imprisoned when we are "on time" and subject to the bombardment of commercials and previews, with the volume cranked up. We go to one baseball game a year, SF Giants, and it's the same there. You used to be able to socialize with your family and friends, but the sound is cranked up to a deafening level, with constant promotions on the big screen in center field. Spectator sports on TV have also been overwhelmed by commercials. The author was quite prescient in anticipating that artificial light from TV as having a negative impact on us. He has a long, investigative chapter about it. Now we know that blue LED, as found in iPhones, laptops and TV, reduces the production of melatonin., which disrupts our biological clocks (circadian rhythm) and contributes to insomnia. It seems my dad had it right back in the day when he'd read a book, for maybe 30 to 60 minutes, under an incandescent bulb, before going to sleep. My wife and I recently saw "Won't You be My Neighbor?" about Mr. Rogers. Far than being a collection of clips from his show, the film went deep into his philosophy of child development and his mission to counter the largely bad TV kids were consuming in the 60's including, of course, a plethora of ads for breakfast cereals that were about 100% sugar. There was also the violence and the sad stories of kids who became convinced they could fly like superman if they pinned a bath towel around their necks and jumped off buildings. There was no clearer example of how TV could distort reality. He also single-handingly got the funding for PBS that a skeptical Congress had been unwilling to award until he testified, also meaning PBS may not otherwise exist today. On his show, he set out to slow time down. as when he quietly fed the fish. Mr. Rogers is gone, but the challenge remains to help kids slow down, learn to focus and build their attention spans. Unfortunately, technology is taking them in the other direction. Perhaps it's time to be more mindful again in assisting kids to regain what is lost. "IN his novel Being There, Polish writer Jerzy Kosinski describes a man. Chauncey Gardner, who is born and raised in a house that he never leaves. His only contacts with humans are occasional encounters with a half-crazy maid, a crippled, senile old man confined in a room upstairs, and a television set. He watches television constantly. In middle age Gardner is suddenly thrown out of the house into the city. Attempting to deal with a world which he has seen only as reproduced on television, he tries to apply what he has learned from the set. He adopts television behavior. He tries to imitate the behavior of the people he has seen on the screen. He speaks like them, moves as they do, imitates their facial expressions. However, because these people were only images to him, and he has never experienced real people, save for the crazies in his house, he does not know anything beyond the images. He does not know about feelings." Last year was the 10th anniversary of the iPhone. We can take our screens with us everywhere now. But I can attest that this means encountering many more Chauncey Gardners out and about than was once possible. They may be physically present, but they are mentally and emotionally absent. I suspect you know exactly what I mean. =========== It's a common misconception to think Fahrenheit 451 was about censorship, but Ray Bradbury, in his 1953 novel, explains it was more about the perils of TV addiction. I am suddenly struck by a subtlety in Bradbury: why do people need books anyway if they're only going to watch the boob tube all the time? In the Internet age I've had people, with some pretty fancy college degrees, tell me they don't read books any more. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sophiebird

    I read this book probably 30 years ago and found it to be such an eye opener. I didn't have a TV for years after reading this, but, alas, did have one while my kids were growing up. However, because of this book I think I was able to make them aware of some of the insidious methods used regarding advertizing and mind numbing constantly bombarding them from the glowing tube. They are now, I am proud to say, all avid readers and learners and none of them blind consumers. Thank you Gerry Mander for I read this book probably 30 years ago and found it to be such an eye opener. I didn't have a TV for years after reading this, but, alas, did have one while my kids were growing up. However, because of this book I think I was able to make them aware of some of the insidious methods used regarding advertizing and mind numbing constantly bombarding them from the glowing tube. They are now, I am proud to say, all avid readers and learners and none of them blind consumers. Thank you Gerry Mander for opening my eyes prior to child rearing.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Regarding this book, James Woolcott wrote in the New York Review of Books that "the special value of Mander’s call-to-arms is that by dedicating himself to a concrete destructive end he can more effectively marshall his facts. Such utopian ferocity can clarify one’s own misgivings about the medium - or so I thought until I actually cracked the book open." Yes, certain personal misgivings I, too, have about watching television are represented here: Mander gives voice to what is, in essence, boring Regarding this book, James Woolcott wrote in the New York Review of Books that "the special value of Mander’s call-to-arms is that by dedicating himself to a concrete destructive end he can more effectively marshall his facts. Such utopian ferocity can clarify one’s own misgivings about the medium - or so I thought until I actually cracked the book open." Yes, certain personal misgivings I, too, have about watching television are represented here: Mander gives voice to what is, in essence, boring content edited to deceive you into captivation. The stuff between advertisements is present to thread together the advertisements. Or confirmation of the oft-repeated facthood of corporate and political strong-arming of the media (Rupert Murdoch ad nauseam). But Mander fails spectacularly taking his peeves about this new-fangled contraption and catastrophizing its existence in every way possible. I share a contempt for advertising, but it's also steered me from ad-laden print media, Kindles for their "idle" screens, and Top 40 radio. These all get passes from Mander. Mander's approach is to inflate the urgency of his arguments using a carte-blanche, escalate-it-all strategy. This abject need to expand his view of television kneecaps his point of view, because he expands his reasons past his expertise, or even concrete evidence. I believe the entirety of the third argument is built on supposition after solipsism after inconclusive anecdote. Take, for example, the notion that, because we may now re-read Harry Potter and think of Daniel Radcliffe's face instead of our original images, that this is eroding people's ability to think for themselves, and become passive spectators forever in the receipt of pre-manufactured images. Or take the repeated chapters that simply survey doctors who know that natural light can be a cure for certain conditions and that the reduction from full-spectrum light to, say, fluorescent, does have its consequences. Yet there's nothing documented yet about television's effects, but Mander simply believes the insinuation is sufficient. People are used to pure sunshine in evolutionary history (we call this both the "naturalistic fallacy" and simply a bad ad-hoc hypothesis) and therefore, since television's light is not pure sunshine, it is unnatural and bad. There is some theorizing about how the trickery of light induces hyperactivity in children, but sadly that point is better covered by Louis C.K.'s routine in Hilarious. (A comment I've written in the margins of this book multiple times). Mander is so vicious and yet so unable to deduce strong conclusions that he tries to attack certain logical fallacies themselves: He resents how the bureaucratic scientists need to spend money and do meticulous studies to prove something that the public "surmised" through anecdotal evidence. Folk wisdom suits Mander's needs here, not just because of the absence of much else, but possibly because credible study would quell his panic. This is not to suggest necessarily that the evidence is not there now; the text was written in the late 1970s. But his desperate flailing at trying to accumulate evidence that isn't there - or to preempt inevitable critiques of this absence of substantive evidence - makes him looking reeling and pathetic, and it makes him less sympathetic. What else is pathetic is this: his examples are all speculative hand-wringing drawn from fiction (Solaris and 1984, mostly). As one could deduce from this awkward sunshine fetish, Mander also has a romantic, unfounded nostalgia in a time when Man had communion with Nature: he thinks that before the twentieth century we were happy because of a routine absorption of natural light as we pranced around the wilderness and lived like a true community. There's nothing more maddening than a nostalgia for an unsubstantiated fantasy, as well as the simple eschewing of an actual scientific claim that prolonged exposure to sunshine can induce, say, heat stroke, sunburn, or skin cancer. Likewise with many poisonous materials that abound in the wilderness, and threats to human life. I wish Mander were perceptive enough to realize that everything is natural, that proclaiming some boundary between synthetic and natural is just reveling in ignorance of basic chemistry. Cities are sort of like human hives, say. It's unfortunate that George Carlin's and Joe Rogan's treatises on this demarcation are keener than Mander's, and I actually heard them through television. What does make Mander's book redeemable is the moments where the reader and him share mutual opinions about television. He does give precise voice to why reading - or meditation, even - feel more substantive or engaging than television...for me. It made me more mindful of the tricks television uses, as well as making me more mindful of when I'm truly bored or spaced out during a program. Mindfulness in the Kabat-Zinn sense is always good, so I laud Mander for inspiring that. Zealotry over preference is distasteful especially when wielded as fact in this overblown fashion, but at times in the book one may found oneself going, "Oh, that may be part of why reading feels better for me." (Mander mentions nothing about how reading small text is damaging to the eyes, or how reading in dim light is bad for your eyesight). In other words, when Mander is giving voice to one's misgivings, he can be quite good. But when he tries to morph those misgivings into a proposal of total elimination, he is often maddeningly aimless and weak. To end on a high note, this excerpt made quite an impression: Do you remember the Howard Johnson’s shoot-out in New Orleans a few years ago? I watched it all on television. The regular programming was interrupted to take me to New Orleans where a wildly murderous band of black revo­lutionaries had taken over the upper floors of a Howard Johnson’s hotel. They were systematically murdering the white guests. This was a truly frightening story. Images of race war ran through my mind. The announcer said that a massive police assault was underway, and I saw helicopters, police with drawn guns, and a lot of tense faces. I didn’t see any murderous black revolutionaries, although I certainly imagined them, and they were described for me by the police on the scene. The death toll was uncertain. A few hours later, the news reported that the siege was continuing but that the police had reduced their estimate of murderous black revolutionaries to two or three and that the death of only one white guest had been thus far confirmed. However, a number of policemen had been killed by the murderers. The death toll was still uncertain but it could be as high as a dozen. Back to the regular programming. By the morning, the siege was over, and the police were able to find only one of the revolutionaries, who apparently had been dead for quite a while, long before the assault was halted. There was still only one dead white guest but there were eight dead police, killed by the band. Police were baffled as to how the other members of the murderous group had eluded them. A week later, after an investigation, the New Orleans po­lice department reported that they had found that only one white guest had been killed, only one black man had been involved in the killing, that this one man was not a black revolutionary but a crazy person. He had been dead for sev­eral hours while the invasion of the hotel continued, and all of the dead police had been killed by each other’s ricocheting bullets. The story was carried in the back pages of the newspapers; I wasn’t able to find it in any television news reports. It turned out that virtually all of the facts as reported on television were totally wrong. Ignoring for the moment that television did not correct its own report, newspapers did, I was given the opportunity to straighten it all out in my mind. There were no murderous revolutionaries; there was only a crazy man. The police had all shot each other. But even now, several years later, I can recall the images of the police assault. Brave men acting in my behalf. The images of the murderous band. I can recall them now even though the information was completely false. If only he could follow that up with more measured evidence of this impact on other people rather than simply letting his own narrative be sold as hard-earned truth. Four Arguments is over-long food-for-thought, not food-for-action. It's a bloated thinkpiece that will do little more than preach to the converted in the moments it works. Otherwise it's an embarrassment logically, teeming with "sacred time where we lived in the wilderness" garbage and ignoring parallels between this medium and others because he's playing favorites. James Woolcott writes, "Mander sorely needed an editor to slash his work mercilessly, until only a few bloody sentences were left…perhaps enough for a pamphlet." The New York Review of Books gets its right again. It has advertising, too. And it's not killing me.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    While I'm sympathetic to the intentions of the book overall I found the ideas scattered and not presented as well as I would've hoped. The problem is that the book isn't even really about television, only about half of it is. There's a lot of commentary here about mass media in general, about culture, even criticism of capitalism. The first two arguments are about television indirectly, focusing on placing a medium between the individual and reality, and the commercialization of this medium respe While I'm sympathetic to the intentions of the book overall I found the ideas scattered and not presented as well as I would've hoped. The problem is that the book isn't even really about television, only about half of it is. There's a lot of commentary here about mass media in general, about culture, even criticism of capitalism. The first two arguments are about television indirectly, focusing on placing a medium between the individual and reality, and the commercialization of this medium respectively. He starts out discussing the experiences of primitive man, directly encountering the elements of nature. Mander wonders how they could've gained their impressive knowledge about the properties of plants and so forth, admitting that it was probably trial and error, but almost implying that we've lost a sixth sense. I'm trying to read a serious book about the effects of television and suddenly I'm reminded of the likes of Colin Wilson. The arguments in the first chapter apply to mass media in general and I can't help but notice that the fiction books which Mander cites to make his points, Brave New World, and 1984, were written before the rise of television and also heavily featured other methods of sedation and propaganda. I know about the telescreens, but I remember that Winston's job involved altering documents which still played a significant role in manipulating reality for that setting. In the other famous anti-tv book Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman admits that his critique of media goes back to the invention of the telegraph and photography. Here the main villain is always television, but his criticisms of it keep talking about so much more. To his credit, Mander admits that many of his criticisms apply to print, but he notes that television is worse. He emphasizes the ability of print to be more interactive and in depth instead of sedating the viewer with simplistic coverage like television does. I think that the argument that television prepares the population for more authoritarian forms of government applies to any technology that involves mass communication or even simply makes more people dependent on complex infrastructure. The government always gets involved in these things and can hijack them to serve themselves at the expense of the population. It seems that the book gets better as you move towards the end and the latter two arguments are definitely focused on television, its physical effects on people, and the limitations that the medium inherently imposes on the information being conveyed.The point that color and light are likely to influence our physiology was intriguing (do a quick search for the health effects of fluorescent light), but the coverage is never more than cursory and more of a call for further research to be done. After forty years I'm very interested to see how far we've come in this field. My favorite chapter was the fourth chapter on how television inherently limits the information conveyed and negatively distorts the public discourse. This was the strongest argument and one I actually agreed with. Mander's views can seem a little extreme. Television is decried as an inherently inadequate means of conveying news regardless of the content of the programming. The coverage is superficial and focuses on the emotional and concise. In a for profit model, it only gets worse, as the networks tend to focus even distort the news to make for good television. We end up with programming focusing on emotions, actions, and energy and overall programming exaggerates how bad things are, because focusing on nuanced issues doesn't make for good television. The criticism goes just beyond news however and applies to literally all programming even fictional. I wish he had expanded on this because there are plenty of novels that carrying simple, emotionally driven stories, with plenty of gratuitousness to maintain the reader's attention. I think the argument was that television is prone to such content by the very nature of the medium, a screen that sedates the viewer. It is a one way experience. Mander points out that books are more interactive. I have to acknowledge as well that print requires the user to exercise their imagination and constantly move their eyes, and I think that point could've been pressed more. Mander does a very good job of summarizing his argument in the very last chapter. Television limits and confines human knowledge. It changes the way humans receive information from the world. In place of natural multidimensional information reception, it offers a very narrow-gauged sense experience, diminishing the amount and kind of information people receive. Television keeps awareness contained within its own rigid channels, a tiny fraction of the natural information field. Because of television we believe we know more, but we know less.  I don't believe television will ever be abolished on a societal scale, but it can be on an individual scale, and that's why it's important for these books to keep being written and read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Emily Crow

    I've been meaning to read this book since I was in college, when I positively wallowed in diatribes about how modern technology was ruining everything. (I have since mellowed a lot on this idea, as it would mean eschewing my kindle, word processor and the Internet, and why on earth would I want to do something like that??) Decades later, I've finally got around to it. There's definitely a lot of food for thought in here, but Mander's arguments vary significantly in persuasiveness, and some of th I've been meaning to read this book since I was in college, when I positively wallowed in diatribes about how modern technology was ruining everything. (I have since mellowed a lot on this idea, as it would mean eschewing my kindle, word processor and the Internet, and why on earth would I want to do something like that??) Decades later, I've finally got around to it. There's definitely a lot of food for thought in here, but Mander's arguments vary significantly in persuasiveness, and some of them seem dated. I would be interested in Mander's take on how the Internet has--or hasn't-- changed his arguments in the intervening decades. Would he see things as being better, worse or the same? For example, from listening to my coworkers blathering, it seems that people can now get just as much distorted and downright bad information from their Facebook friends as they ever could from TV, and the Internet has allowed an infinitely greater range of voices to the table which has in turn brought us such things as cat videos and amateur porn, but hey, at least it's outside the hegemony of the networks! I thought the chapters devoted to the problems with society as a whole were more interesting than the ones specifically about television--there were a lot of pages worrying about the health consequences of being exposed to artificial light that seemed quaintly alarmist, for example. But for the most part, the arguments have held up well, and were certainly worth the time to read. Bonus: A Fifth Argument for the Elimination of Television -- Reality TV

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mark Singer

    I read this many years ago and need to do so again. Jerry Mander was a successful advertising executive who quit the business in the early 70's and tried to make a difference. In this book, he makes a strong case against television. Sounds crazy? In my opinion, his arguments about the diminished capacity to reason, the harmful effects of artificial light, the narrowing of experience, the inherent biases and the one-way nature of the medium still hold up. I would have given the book more than 4 s I read this many years ago and need to do so again. Jerry Mander was a successful advertising executive who quit the business in the early 70's and tried to make a difference. In this book, he makes a strong case against television. Sounds crazy? In my opinion, his arguments about the diminished capacity to reason, the harmful effects of artificial light, the narrowing of experience, the inherent biases and the one-way nature of the medium still hold up. I would have given the book more than 4 stars for its thought provoking subject but Mander can be his own worst enemy as his writing style is turgid and he needlessly complicates his points. My own love-hate relationship with television goes back to childhood. I can remember being away from it while on vacation, but getting anxious shortly after getting home and watching some. I no longer get my news from television, just the internet. Is that the same? Not quite, but some of the same physical problems with electronic media are still there.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Philip Morgan

    At times certain people display a sincerity and a congruence with their deepest beliefs that is truly amazing. And often this state is combined with a simplicity of presentation. And the cynical among us might be inclined to laugh. Test yourself on this point if you like. See this video of Fred Rogers testifying before the US Senate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a41lJI... Did you laugh at him at any point? Think he was silly or goofy or a pansy? How did you feel at the end of his speech? This bo At times certain people display a sincerity and a congruence with their deepest beliefs that is truly amazing. And often this state is combined with a simplicity of presentation. And the cynical among us might be inclined to laugh. Test yourself on this point if you like. See this video of Fred Rogers testifying before the US Senate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a41lJI... Did you laugh at him at any point? Think he was silly or goofy or a pansy? How did you feel at the end of his speech? This book by Jerry Mander is a plainspoken exposition on what is wrong with television. It has the same tenor as Fred Rogers' speech before the senate. And though it will say many obvious things, it's worth reading for the well organized thought it contains.

  13. 5 out of 5

    emma

    One of the three most important books I've ever read. This is more than an anti-television book. Along with Weapons of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto, it should be read by everyone to gain some sort of insight into why we, and society, are the way we are - and what we need to do to change it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    I love television and I love this book. The point about it is that it objectifies the experience of watching and actually allowed me to go ahead and love TV. Yes, it may have some dated arguments in it, but it lays down a fundamental questioning of an act most of us do every day.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lee Foust

    So this, along with Moneyball is one of those non-fiction books that, by examining a small, specific thing, challenges one's whole way of looking at the world--that's why both of these titles are favorites of mine well beyond any concern for either wealth inequality in baseball or the inherent biases of television as a medium of information. What Mander has done for me here is open up my thinking about the conditioning effects of all types of technologies--even art itself as a medium of expressio So this, along with Moneyball is one of those non-fiction books that, by examining a small, specific thing, challenges one's whole way of looking at the world--that's why both of these titles are favorites of mine well beyond any concern for either wealth inequality in baseball or the inherent biases of television as a medium of information. What Mander has done for me here is open up my thinking about the conditioning effects of all types of technologies--even art itself as a medium of expression--and how the media tend toward creating a world beyond our control regardless of the uses to which we put them. While I'd come to similar conclusions regarding many media throughout my life--my anti-gun stance for example--Mander's arguments here are so organized and well-conceived that he gave me some new perspectives on my own thought, new fodder for thought, and forced me to re-assess my own limitations and dependencies upon technology as well. Of course, since the book was written between 1975-7, one cannot help, at this point, ruminating on the effects he claims for television and its continued ubiquity in the North American home, as well as the internet and PC as a partial replacement of Television, the triumph of cable over broadcast, and the smart phone's ascendancy as the medium of choice these days for everything except eating and sexual intercourse. First of all I would think that the sad state of US politics today can be traced back to the effects Mander isolates here, the moronic presidents of the 80's and 90's would have been unthinkable in a work in which voters would have to actually read about public policy rather than vote for a charismatic smile or dumb soundbite. (Yesterday I predicted that Trump would be the first in a long line of Twitter Presidents--elected by a series of short, sharp, tweets--the only information voters have the patience to put up with anymore.) I don't usually quote from the text in my "reviews" but here's the heart of it from Four Arguments...'s conclusion: "...the absolutely erroneous assumption that technologies are 'neutral,' benign instruments that may be used well or badly depending upon who controls them. Americans have not grasped the fact that many technologies determine their own use, their own effects, and even the kind of people who control them. We have not yet learned to think of technology as having ideology built into its every form." But, hey, you object, here you are writing on a website dedicated to books! objecting, as my friend Andrew Thomas did on facebook today when I posted this paragraph of Mander's conclusion: "But conversely, most tech does have a range of ideology dependent on the user." Which, while entirely true, is quickly becoming the absolute measure of our intellectual freedom--like democracy telling us it works when we're only at liberty to vote for the rich or the super rich. But what about the other 99% of Middle Class, poor, and destitute Americans? Why do none of us ever get to run for office? I can only chose to buy or not buy a smart phone, to watch TV or not--i can no longer choose to live in a world where TV or smart phones don't exist and in which their effects are not felt--and sharply--at all times. Oh, yeah, they've eliminated most second-hand cigarette smoke. Thanks for that--but what about stray bullets, "trigger-happy policin'" (Marvin Gaye), and the economic fallout of big banks nefarious wheelings and dealings? Banking and capitalism by their very nature encourage theft. Guns do kill people. Militaristic hierarchies do not serve and protect, they can only oppress and kill. It takes an oxymoron to counter any of these arguments so go ahead and pull them out--the world lives by them--them and the idiocy of religious faith, believing in something you know to be impossible. I really didn't mean for this to disintegrate into a rant. I wouldn't want you to think that only cranks read such books. This is one of the smartest and most important books I've read in a long time. As radical and odd (that is to say ideological and logical rather than religious or "real-world") a thinker as I've always been, despite my Ph.D. and respectable job as uni. prof., the observations and ideas here really excited and opened up new byways of thought and observation for me--try it, you like it. (See how mesmerized we are by television?)

  16. 5 out of 5

    tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE

    As I've written elsewhere, probably in the Cognitive Dissidents Group, I put off reading this for 30 yrs. It came out in 1978 & I'd already stopped watching TV in 1969 or 1970 - one of the best decisions I ever made in my life, if I do say! Of course, saying that I "stopped watching TV" is, sadly, not as true as I'd like it to be given that there's usually a TV on in whatever laundromat I go to, in the bars I go to, etc.. There was even talk for a while of putting TVs on buses here in Pittsburgh As I've written elsewhere, probably in the Cognitive Dissidents Group, I put off reading this for 30 yrs. It came out in 1978 & I'd already stopped watching TV in 1969 or 1970 - one of the best decisions I ever made in my life, if I do say! Of course, saying that I "stopped watching TV" is, sadly, not as true as I'd like it to be given that there's usually a TV on in whatever laundromat I go to, in the bars I go to, etc.. There was even talk for a while of putting TVs on buses here in Pittsburgh. THANK GOODNESS THEY DIDN'T DO THAT!! ANYWAY, I probably didn't read it when it came out b/c I'd already stopped watching TV long since & figured that I already knew most of Mander's arguments - having made them myself. AND I was right. Much of what Mander writes is what I'd already observed too.. BUT he articulates it so well, so thoroughly, that I'd recommend this bk to everyone as much as possible (w/o being a proselytizer, ie). I even loved this as much as I loved "The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia"! & that's saying alot! During the mnths that I've been intermittently reading this, I've quoted from it extensively on various Cognitive Dissidents posts: The 4th & 5th messages to the "Robopaths" topic: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1... The 5th, 6th, & 7th messages to the "Propaganda" topic: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1... PLUS, I'm working toward making a movie called "Robopaths" that I've been selecting Mander quotes for. B/c of the space limitations of this review, I'll confine myself to just quoting 2 ending paragraphs here: "Television technology is inherently antidemocratic. Because of its cost, the limited kind of information it can disseminate, the way it transforms the people who use it, and the fact that a few speak while millions absorb, television is suitable for use only by the most powerful corporate interests in the country. They inevitably use it to redesign human minds into a channeled, artificial, commercial form, that nicely fits the commercial environment. Television freewayizes, suburbanizes, and commoditizes human beings, who are then easier to control. Meanwhile, those who control television consolidate their power." - p349 "We believe ourselves to be living in a democracy because from time to time we get to vote on candidates for public office. Yet our vote for congressperson or president means very little in the light of our lack of power over technological inventions that affect the nature of our existence more than any individual leader has ever done. Without our gaining control over technology, all notions of democracy are a farce. If we cannot even think of abandoning a technology, or thinking of it, affect the ban, then we are trapped in a state of passivity and impotence hardly to be distinguished from living under a dictatorship. What is confusing is that our dictator is not a person. Though a handful of people most certainly benefit from and harness to their purposes these pervasive technologies, the true dictators are the technologies themselves." - p352

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alex Jeffries

    Navigating this book was always going to be a minefield, as I bought it in the first place as someone with a television career and Sun Tzu's "know thy enemy" bouncing around my brain. Jerry Mander's arguments for the elimination of television are not easily refutable, and that's trouble (for me, for humanity, etc.). This book is a well-reasoned and researched dismantling of television, and the tendencies of our culture that paved the road for television's arrival. It was striking to see just how Navigating this book was always going to be a minefield, as I bought it in the first place as someone with a television career and Sun Tzu's "know thy enemy" bouncing around my brain. Jerry Mander's arguments for the elimination of television are not easily refutable, and that's trouble (for me, for humanity, etc.). This book is a well-reasoned and researched dismantling of television, and the tendencies of our culture that paved the road for television's arrival. It was striking to see just how much human culture has shifted over the last few generations from one of openness and connectivity to the natural world to one where a daily connection with nature is made nearly impossible, and where most of our experiences are constructed and architected. Television is the technological culmination of this slippery slope, as a medium where so many subtleties and nuances are washed out and lost, at the cost of important lifestyles, ideologies and cultures. What's more worrisome is how current this book feels, despite its July 3, 1977 sign-off. Television is more prevalent now, it's on our computers now, it's intentionally binge-watched now (and how funny is the idea that when we hear that the average American watches four or five or six hours of television a day, we scoff and distance ourselves from that statistic, but the idea of binge-watching television series is in vogue and celebrated because somehow it's different and purposeful?). Maybe there are fewer physical televisions in our lives, or less quantifiable hours spent absorbing programming, but there are more screens by way of phones and tablets and computers, and less interaction with the world at large as a consequence. TV shouldn't be saved, reformed or tolerated. And yet, I have to hope it can. Mander refutes the idea of technology being benign by arguing that the very medium of television has negative physical, cultural, and intellectual ramifications, so much so that even those noble-intentioned TV producers are still guilty of providing fuel to a beast that thrives off an audience that passively receives images instead of actively pursuing knowledge. The danger in wanting to throw in the towel and leave forever is that the effect would be the same as those people who drop out of society completely and hope their absence causes some change (kind of like when Kim Kardashian stopped using Twitter to raise money for a charity, and no one cared at all). To really effect a change, we need to be conscious of the form and what we are feeding the beast.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Deke

    This book hasn't aged well. Largely anecdotal and largely concerned with TV's one hegemonic position in American life, there are arguments to be made for at least the significant reduction and alteration of the nature of television, but this book either can't see them because it was written decades ago, breezes over them, or tags down on them but in a way that's unsupported by research. I recommend it only as a window into the past.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Gonçalves

    Jerry Mander is able to brilliantly deconstruct this cursed box, and its impacts on society. Some may see his views as radical, yet the arguments he bestows are undeniable, impossible to be negated - for TV is an insidious medium of communication, dimming the most acutely smart minds in unimaginable ways. The imagery it invokes creeps right into an individual mind, crippling an already dim whited intellect. Hence, it might have the capacity to deny clarity of thought. For the most part, programs Jerry Mander is able to brilliantly deconstruct this cursed box, and its impacts on society. Some may see his views as radical, yet the arguments he bestows are undeniable, impossible to be negated - for TV is an insidious medium of communication, dimming the most acutely smart minds in unimaginable ways. The imagery it invokes creeps right into an individual mind, crippling an already dim whited intellect. Hence, it might have the capacity to deny clarity of thought. For the most part, programs worth producing for television involve controversial or violent themes, and a superficial approach to the subject matter. There isn't time for deep discussion, vagueness or ambiguity. Things have thus to be clearly defined and contrasted, otherwise the hypnotic trance won't be fully realized. Such hypnosis is the perfect environment for subliminal or even blatant suggestion. Thus, advertising is a reliable medium in such circumstances. They might argue the only purpose for the existence of broadcast: the programming are in this view excuses for the ads, which are often a manipulated series of propaganda images designed to cause potent, unconscious feeling, calling towards action and desire. This fundamentally thralls human freewill and thought processes, turning the mind into a foggy environment. It's not unusual also to hear accounts of people denouncing the zombie like feelings TV is capable of inserting. This magnetic attraction is to the actor undesirable and cunning, an unfortunate result of its insidious nature. After reading the arguments in detail, the cogency of the message he so effectively transmitted becomes crystal clear.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    I'd almost say this book was transformative, but I suspect I was already on the path towards eliminating television from my life. Mander's arguments provided justification, but the pandering idiocy of most of the stuff on the airwaves was already sufficient. At this point, I haven't watched a significant amount of television in about ten years -- I did enjoy some of the first season of West Wing at a girlfriend's place, but since then there's only been the sporadic Simpsons show once or twice a I'd almost say this book was transformative, but I suspect I was already on the path towards eliminating television from my life. Mander's arguments provided justification, but the pandering idiocy of most of the stuff on the airwaves was already sufficient. At this point, I haven't watched a significant amount of television in about ten years -- I did enjoy some of the first season of West Wing at a girlfriend's place, but since then there's only been the sporadic Simpsons show once or twice a year. Oddly, I've recently been reconsidering. After reading Steven Johnson's Everything Bad is Good for You, I suspect Mander's case isn't as ironclad as I'd thought. Although the medium is still suspect, and the advertisements still keep me away, I have to acknowledge that some shows are as culturally valuable as good movies and, dare I say it, good books. After all, an entire television series can be comparable, in terms of complexity, to a normal-length novel. Each media has its strengths and weaknesses, of course (I suspect everyone here will tend towards the side of the book). But I recall how a well-directed and budgeted show like Twin Peaks (my opinion) could be excellent. Mander's book still poses a challenge to anyone with a television in their daily life, but the argument is now more nuanced than it was back in 1978.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Brent Leung

    I let this book collect dust for a few years, knowing that when I actually picked it up, the arguments would most likely be thought provoking, logical, and convincing enough to catalyze a major life change: the elimination of television (or Netflix) from my life. And now after reading it and pondering the content — a change is coming! Four Argument for the Elimination of Television is a must read for everyone, especially people raising little ones. But this book is about so much more than just t I let this book collect dust for a few years, knowing that when I actually picked it up, the arguments would most likely be thought provoking, logical, and convincing enough to catalyze a major life change: the elimination of television (or Netflix) from my life. And now after reading it and pondering the content — a change is coming! Four Argument for the Elimination of Television is a must read for everyone, especially people raising little ones. But this book is about so much more than just television and technology. It's probably one of the most important books that I have read. And don't let the publication date deter you from reading it. With the exception of three pages towards the end, the book -- in my opinion -- is more important today than it was at the time of its publication. Barring a global catastrophe, his dream of eliminating TV is now — as it was then — next to impossible. But the challenge to be aware of the danger lurking in technology's shadow, and taking appropriate steps to significantly diminishing tv, the internet, and mobile phones from having such a strong presence in our lives is attainable.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Where do I start? My whole life I have been a TV addict. My mother used to advise me strongly against it, but I would never listen. Recently I vowed not to watch TV. I was doing well, only watching when visiting others who were watching it. After reading this book I am bound and determined to never watch it again. I am not easily swayed, but Mr. Mander's arguments are true and to the point. He talks about the effects of the ingestion of artificial light, to the hyperactivity of children, to the Where do I start? My whole life I have been a TV addict. My mother used to advise me strongly against it, but I would never listen. Recently I vowed not to watch TV. I was doing well, only watching when visiting others who were watching it. After reading this book I am bound and determined to never watch it again. I am not easily swayed, but Mr. Mander's arguments are true and to the point. He talks about the effects of the ingestion of artificial light, to the hyperactivity of children, to the programming of adults to succumb to autocratic and dictatorial behavior. It helps that our best teachers, like Sheikh Hamza and Sheikh Nuh, agree with the book and advocate against TV. Read it, and then turn off the TV.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Marcus

    An essential but flawed book. This book is the perfect example of a book where 70 percent of it is 5 star material... but that 30 percent... whew... hence the 4 stars overall. Mander is at his best when he is talking about televisions effect on thinking, perception, and limitations as a medium. He is at his shakiest when he delves into pseudo-science to "strengthen" his arguments. Trust me... his good arguments are solid on their own merit and are in fact weakened when coupled with the flimsy pa An essential but flawed book. This book is the perfect example of a book where 70 percent of it is 5 star material... but that 30 percent... whew... hence the 4 stars overall. Mander is at his best when he is talking about televisions effect on thinking, perception, and limitations as a medium. He is at his shakiest when he delves into pseudo-science to "strengthen" his arguments. Trust me... his good arguments are solid on their own merit and are in fact weakened when coupled with the flimsy parts. If you read Amusing Ourselves to Death and found it valid, this is a good book to read as well.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    this is from 1977 so there are some parts that feel a bit dated, like the hippy back to nature vibes he sometimes has, and some quaint stuff about tvs having very low quality images. but mostly this is cool and it's funny that most of his arguments apply equally well if not more so to social media. throw a brick at your tv/phone/computer today!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    This book changed my life. It is the reason I decided to work at The Hand. That and something about chain stores...and the man.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jim Leckband

    Read this 30 years ago when I didn't even own a TV or watch much of it anyway, I was already a member of the choir. And at the time of my reading the FCC Fairness Doctrine was still mostly being honored.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Leif

    Old - and in many ways, very dated (!) - but brave and correct on the essentials, and additionally prophetic given contemporary issues of climate change, mobilization, and attention span politics. From the television to the Internet, the changes that only a few generations of humans have lived through is enough to make your head spin. In fact, it's a mistake to think your head isn't spinning, your eyes aren't rolling! Historical arguments such as this one help to provide a grounding in critical Old - and in many ways, very dated (!) - but brave and correct on the essentials, and additionally prophetic given contemporary issues of climate change, mobilization, and attention span politics. From the television to the Internet, the changes that only a few generations of humans have lived through is enough to make your head spin. In fact, it's a mistake to think your head isn't spinning, your eyes aren't rolling! Historical arguments such as this one help to provide a grounding in critical media theory, albeit not the kind that merely seeks more representation in dominant forms of privilege.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    This book was written in the late seventies, and is awash with its chronology. Mander frequently cites the inferiority of television’s image quality and the necessity of prosaic, dull programming that can conform to television’s poor standards. His ideological bent and optimistic sensibility also seems a little outdated, a little naive - though it is admirable, he expresses enviornmentalism as common sense...the future Mander imagines is not nearly so bright. Despite quirks of the period, Mander This book was written in the late seventies, and is awash with its chronology. Mander frequently cites the inferiority of television’s image quality and the necessity of prosaic, dull programming that can conform to television’s poor standards. His ideological bent and optimistic sensibility also seems a little outdated, a little naive - though it is admirable, he expresses enviornmentalism as common sense...the future Mander imagines is not nearly so bright. Despite quirks of the period, Mander is an engaging, fluid writer - a natural advertiser. I was already sympathetic to any vaguely-Luddite thought, but took note of his affable style. He cites Leftist thinkers like Debord, Marcuse and Walter Benjamin, but his writing isn’t academic - it’s for the layman without any condescension. If all good thinking could be fluidly expressed, it would be a miracle, so his style really needs to be praised. My partner is currently (one may hope it is merely current) in the throes of a Jeff Goldblum craze, and is watching his entire filmography regardless of quality. Tonight we watched a charming 1980 TV adaptation of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, starring Goldblum, on his laptop. The video was a VHS recording and included the adverts at regular intervals. The ads were genuinely more engaging than the film. They were quaint, kitschy, products of their time, but they were also technically proficient in ways the film wasn’t, direct in their message, usually accompanied with a catchy jingle. To me they were novelties, but to Americans of the time they were part of the minutiae of everyday experience. And they were certainly alluring; almost hypnotic. Mander’s arguments relating to the intoxication of advertising are pitch-perfect. The technology supersedes reality. Television is different now, though. Production quality is better, but the dominant medium is the internet now. I don’t have the patience for tv - I can’t stand sitting, complacent, absorbing whatever’s on for hours at a time. I want control - interactivity - I can happily waste time browsing 4chan or digesting useless information from tvtropes for hours at a time purely because I’m consciously doing it — even though I know better; it’s a partial seduction. The internet is a wider issue, and I won’t proselytize regarding its defects; I’m writing this, after all. I’d recommend this book to just about anyone, for it seems to predict, to a degree, a postmodern, atomised anxiety inherent in modern life without itself being subject to that anxiety. Despite polemic intent, the world of this book inspires nostalgia, and I’m not even American.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jo291

    He makes a lot of arguments that can be applied to any story telling media including reading, try's to make vague justifications for reading over every other medium and IMO comes pretty short, worst part being that even if he addresses books and television he has yet to really adequately address comics and film which share many of the same "problems" he seems to have but that's what a bad case of favoritism will do to you. Complains about visual tricks and etc used in television to keep peoples He makes a lot of arguments that can be applied to any story telling media including reading, try's to make vague justifications for reading over every other medium and IMO comes pretty short, worst part being that even if he addresses books and television he has yet to really adequately address comics and film which share many of the same "problems" he seems to have but that's what a bad case of favoritism will do to you. Complains about visual tricks and etc used in television to keep peoples attention but seems to have zero problem with rhetorical tricks and the like used in books that he himself uses to come up with wild fantasy meant and probably deliberately designed to scare the reader in a very pernicious and manipulative way. Tries to argue that television can only be made by the evil big corporations which fly's in the face of the increasing amount of independent networks and solo crews not to mention the emergence of the internet which allows anyone to make their own little series further blurring the line between television and film which he constantly fails to address. This arbitrariness and inability to see parallels that runs through the whole book is a massive problem and turns much of the book into a iconoclastic rant against almost all visual media. Any person who is passionate about the visual arts would probably be pretty enraged by this book I imagine considering the interchangeable arguments that It makes. Goes after the scientific method in chapter three and decries scientists for having to do silly things like collect evidence and test for outcomes because he thinks "folk wisdom" will solve everything (The same folk wisdom that tells Africans that they can cure their AIDS by raping babies and brought forth the Salem Witch trials? Yeah I will pass.) Constantly drowns the reader in 60's era flower power "noble savage" myths and stuff like that. Spends a ton of the book jerking himself off over how great he is for helping the American Indian movement. Yeah I didn't like it. Seems like the kind of book that will only really attract people who already agree with the author or who have attached their ego to not watching television, even then Ive met people who were sympathetic to the message and even they thought the book was pretty weak, hence why Neil Postman of all people heavily criticized both the book and Jerry Mander himself after its release.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    I agree wholeheartedly that technology is a time-consuming habit that needs limited use. However, the author's view that television is basically the Trojan horse of the scientific/industrial/corporation/governmental conspiracy to turn us into brainwashed citizens was a bit far-fetched. He criticized both metropolitan and suburban living as a narrow, crushing environment that removes us from nature and our natural rhythms and behaviors. I found this ironic since he lived in San Francisco at the t I agree wholeheartedly that technology is a time-consuming habit that needs limited use. However, the author's view that television is basically the Trojan horse of the scientific/industrial/corporation/governmental conspiracy to turn us into brainwashed citizens was a bit far-fetched. He criticized both metropolitan and suburban living as a narrow, crushing environment that removes us from nature and our natural rhythms and behaviors. I found this ironic since he lived in San Francisco at the time he wrote this book. A call for the total elimination of television is unrealistic, and he doesn't propose any methods to carry it out. There are good points about limited creative thinking and overall physical activity while watching television. I just don't think that television in any amount is suffocating us and hypnotizing us into being puppets for the "other guys".

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