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Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television Paperback – March 1, 1978
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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 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."
About the Author
Jerry Mander holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Economics, spent 15 years in the advertising business, including five as president and partner of Freeman, Mander & Gossage, San Francisco, one of the most celebrated agencies in the country. After quitting commercial advertising, he achieved national fame for his public service campaigns, leading the Wall Street Journal to call him "the Ralph Nader of adevertising." In 1972 he founded the country's first non-profit ad agency, taking leave of that in 1974. Mander is co-author of The Great International Paper Airplane Book.
- Publisher : William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (March 1, 1978)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 384 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0688082742
- ISBN-13 : 978-0688082741
- Item Weight : 12.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.85 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #126,510 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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An Endless Debate with Terrible Consequences.
From Kenneth Ellman, email@example.com, Box 18, Newton, New Jersey 07860.
I have owned this book for many years and recently reading it again am reminded of the pervasive and dramatic effect of the technology of projected images using electronics. This of course is relatively recent technology and the effects upon human beings of such continuous use is not fully appreciated. This Mander book was and remains an excellent introduction to exploring the various commentary and ideas as to how television has impacted our civilization.
You do not have to agree with his conclusions to appreciate that the questions raised are significant and worthy of continuing study and investigation.
I like many believe that the use of Television to convey information is both deficient and injurious to those exposed to it. Whether for entertainment or academic pursuits Television does not interact with the human eye and brain as does the printed word or personal interaction with your fellow human beings. Yet Television serves for some as a significant substitute for reading and personal communication. Printed photographic images however displayed may explain, in part, this difference. For reasons not yet fully examined the human brain does not appear to process or retain the information conveyed by television in the same manner such is conveyed by the written word on paper or stone or such other solid material or in person with another individual. It is this neurological distinction more that the content of the message, the information, that I think is responsible for the different response of the Brain and Eye.
But my experience and beliefs are not sufficient to explore this question as the use and application of Television varies from transmitting images of space exploration to the teaching of academic classes over electronic medium such as the Internet, to that of mundane entertainment broadcasts in the hope that money can be made from advertisers during the watching by you and me.
If television is capable of definition it must be as the invention of electronics being used in a manner similar to images created by solid material such as paper or stone or wood, etc., or painting or engraving on varied materials or such other method that does not require energy to maintain after creation. Yet this definition also fails as what is projected electronically as images is also permanently retained in the form of video, CD or other storage devices. It is true that electronic storage is useless without energy to open it and other storage methods such as paper or stone, etc. require no energy just accessibility and eyesight or tactile sensation for Braille.
But the fundamental question is the effect upon the human brain of this technology and the social choices made to use it to convey information in a manner so different from the printed work. An observation can be made that reading letters and symbols into words and ideas as a language and communication assimilated by the user is participatory, under the control of the reader and retained differently by the brain from the projection of images through electronic means such as television. Television is not normally participatory or controlled by the user in the same manner. Reading is normally visual except for the blind where it become tactile. Electronic television is auditory and visual with images moving in a manner our brain is not likely to ever encounter in reality and impacts memory very differently. It is memory and retention that is most extraordinarily affected by electronic television and the reason why remembrance of information from viewing television is very different when compared and tested to that of reading the printed language.
When we read we take the representations of the letters and words and create in our mind thoughts which allow us to access the information of language. When we observe electronic television images the information is not normally conveyed by the printed word. Yet television can also simply convey the letters and words of language without sound or movement other than that controlled by the user. So is there a difference to the brain and eye in reading a book on a computer or electronic screen? Electronic Television in fictional representations of fast moving images is normally designed to be sensed as if actually occurring. The Eye and Brain see the images and hear the associated sounds as if information happening in reality yet at the same time the mind knows or should know, you are not there.
There are many questions that our experience with images and sounds conveyed by television should be examined and determined for the well being of our civilization. Ask yourself if this particular invention, television, and the way it is used, has not significantly effected our behavior and intellectual activity? Ask yourself if before you die would you regret the time your mind spent watching television rather than other pursuits? So many hours, lifetimes, for what?
So in this review I state that Jerry Mander in his Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television raises issues that should be addressed as to the effect of this technology upon us and what we can do to learn more how it interacts with our Neurology. It is an older book but remains very relevant to our contemporary experience. You should also read Endangered Minds by Jane M. Healy and the very many medical, scientific and psychological studies on television and human Neurology and intellectual functioning, including testing scores. When we read we take the representations of the letters and words and create in our mind thoughts which allow us to access the information of language. When we observe electronic television images it is significantly different from acquiring information from reading or in person communication with our fellow man. I am interested in this subject and solicit any communications regarding the Neurological and Psychological effect of television and electronic imaging.
Kenneth Ellman, firstname.lastname@example.org, Box 18, Newton, New Jersey 07860
The approach that Mander takes in this book is interesting and unusual, because he's not a conservative--he's a liberal. In fact, he is WAY liberal. Some readers who are accustomed to traditionalist, conservative perspectives on the evils of television may simply not used to hearing the kinds of perspectives that Mander introduces, and may never have been exposed to his view of economics, society, personhood, and the natural world.
Many people doing searches on books critical of TV are doubtless unaware that liberal-thinking people can be against television--they've probably been told that the TV industry is run by liberals whose agenda is to proffer liberal ideas. The arguments against television that such a reader is accustomed to probably have to do with the immoral content of the programs, the violence, the sexuality, the language, corrupt views of relationships, images of children resisting their parents' authority, the inaccurate (and sometimes disturbing) worldviews embedded in the programs, etc. And of course, all of those things ARE matters for concern and constitute good reasons why we should not be exposing ourselves to television.
What Mander helps us to understand, though, is that there are other arguments that may be mounted against television, arguments that are not related to most of the concerns voiced by conservative and religious people--and he has done a great service in thus expanding the discussion. Mander's chief concerns are related to what TV does to us as persons, as thinking beings relating to the world around us, and how TV programming can affect us cognitively and socially. One of his chief concerns is one that many conservatives probably don't share: the fact that big corporations (the people who, for the most part, control the content of what's on TV) are using this technology in order to shape your view of the world, and, in essence, to bring millions of people like you under their control. Any conservative who is (rightly) concerned about "big government" ought to be equally concerned about all of the monolithic institutions that dominate our lives: "big" business, "big" communications networks, etc.
A word to the reader who simply can't wrap his head around the idea that a "liberal" might be opposed to TV: Not all "liberals" are the same, or believe the same things. (Neither do all veterans believe the same things, nor do all Christians, or all business people.) "Liberalism" is an enormous community, and includes a great many people who disagree with each other about pretty fundamental things. There are dozens of nuances within liberalism, and the view that Mander represents in this book embodies a liberal perspective that many readers have probably not encountered before. That may be confusing to some readers who are looking for the sort of book that might come out of James Dobson's neighborhood--you'll keep looking for traces of a mindset similar to your own, and will be baffled by the fact that this guy has a totally different worldview--not just different from yours, but also different from your understanding of what "liberalism" is all about.
It is possible for very different people to be opposed to the same things, although for very different reasons. Jerry Mander is deeply troubled by television and everything it represents, and his perspective is about as far from conservatism as you can get.
For what it's worth, i'm pretty strongly conservative in most of my social, political and religious philosophy. And i found myself sort of smiling indulgently at, or outright dismissing, about 10-25% of what Mander had to say in the book. Not only are there some basic problems with Mander's socio-cultural perspective, but he sometimes indulges in sloppy reasoning--as one Amazon reviewer who only gave the book one star points out in a very interesting and detailed review. That's okay. After the problematic stuff has been skimmed off, what's left is a truly important book--one of the most important books i've ever read. What Jerry Mander has done is produce a fairly cogent, occasionally strange, and wildly compelling argument in opposition to television, that in no way depends on conservative suppositions about society and the world. I think that's pretty exciting, and serves as an opportunity for conservative-liberal dialogue on this issue.
Mander has given us a take on what television is all about that simply cannot be ignored--and i'd like to encourage the more socially conservative reader to tackle the book, along with whatever more traditional / religious materials you want to read on the subject. Mander's argument has the virtue of being systematic, nuanced, and complete, and it is well worth struggling with.