Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television has been on my to-read list for quite some time. I finally got around to it earlier this year. Jerry Mander provides a lot to think about in this book. Here is a summary of his main points and what I took away from it.
Mander’s first criticism of television is how it creates artificial environments and disconnects us from our natural environment. He terms this the mediation of experience. “…[H]uman beings have lost insight into natural processes – how the world works, the human role as one of many interlocking parts of the worldwide ecosystem – because natural processes are now exceedingly difficult to observe.”
His second argument relates to how people have been changed to match the television environment. “Unplugged from our natural connection to the environment, we are replugged into a new consumer environment.” Mander goes on to criticize advertising suggesting it “exists only to purvey what people don’t need.”
The third point is the effects television has on people. This ranges from an increase in hyperactivity, sensory deprivation, and isolation while decreasing our ability to communicate, show affection, participate, and engage in interpersonal sharing and critical thinking. “Television isolates people from the environment, from each other, and from our own senses.”
Mander’s final point is the that television possesses a number of biases which are permanent and unchangeable.”The overriding bias of television, then, the bias which contains all the other biases, is that it offers preselected material, which excludes whatever is not selected.” Another bias is the inclination towards intense visual emotions such as anger, rage, hate, fear, and jealousy. These feelings, along with violence, suffer no information loss through television. On the other hand, concepts and information involving nature cannot be captured adequately on television. “Programs concerned with arts, programs concerned with many religions and all programs concerned with non-Western cultures are similarly distorted by television’s inability to convey their sensual aspects.”
I thoroughly enjoyed Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television. Mander discusses a lot of ideas we generally do not think about when it comes to our relationship with television. I am not lobbying for the elimination of television, but I definitely agree with much of Mander’s reasoning. My only wish was that Mander wrote revised editions of his book every five years or so.