Television, Opium of the People

by Richard Kovac

"Nothing is real unless it's on television." Do we already believe that? I would maintain that reality is exactly what is not on television (nor in cyberspace), and that most of us are floating around in a vast illusion.

Television is the opium of the people. The legacy we may leave to future generations is our entertainment industry - along with the rust of our military prowess. Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck may turn out to be the true survivors. That too is illusion.

The opium dream which is television presents a distorted purview of a small and isolated (i.e., middle class) part of the world. Many of us have forgotten that there is anything else.

I think television makes us passive spectators of the powers and dominions of the air, and slaves to them. I know this is a radical critique. I was raised on television like you - but am now wary of it, although I tune in occasionally to see what the opposition is doing.

By its very nature, television gives the power to a small handful - maybe several thousand people. The medium has not been studied in all its implications, although the esteemed Marshall McCluhan made an attempt which I think was off base in "Understanding Media".

I wonder if anyone is left who has contact with the rocks, herbs, and flowers of mother earth? Who knows the current suffering in Niger? By and large, television presents us with a gilded world.

Also, to go a step farther down the technological road, virtual reality is actually non-reality. The real is becoming more and more elusive. We have become like Kubla Khan's pleasure dome in Coleridge's great unfinished poem.

There is also a decidedly pornographic and violent twist to all these things. I think technologies like television have a limited value. We are currently inundated by it, as if by some primeval flood. We live in the presence of television rather than the presence of God. Someday the televisions will still be on, but the people will be gone - all extinct.

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