TV or Not TV?
As my involvement with Constitution Thursday and the LPOV group grows, I often wonder why there are less people involved with today’s political climate then in the past. Laws get passed that strip our liberties and freedoms and, in most cases, that nobody knows about. Politicians title these bills something that sounds great but are far from what the name actually implies. And people continue to vote the same people into office and go about their lives never knowing what is really going on in Washington. So how did we get here? I have a theory: the invention of the television.
Back before TV, people read. Books, newspapers, and magazines were all the rage. People talked with their neighbors about the happenings of the world. And they wrote letters to the people who could help them; their elected representatives. City Council, State Assembly and Senate members, Congressmen, Senators; all were in touch with the people who voted them into office. Town hall meetings were the norm, not just during election time. Washington DC was a place to do the work of the people, not a place to hide from the people who they represent and a jackpot full of money for ex-politicians and consultants.
Then it became Howdy Doody Time and the nation watched. It was entertainment away from the daily news of the world. The more people watched the new media, the more they stopped watching Washington. They were interested in a new world; one where the news was provided for you and you didn’t have to invest hours into reading multiple papers. Wrapped around the unsettling real-life stories of war and crime were Lucy & Ricky and the Honeymooners. People found a way to escape. Now water cooler talk was about what they saw on TV and not real life.
Manufacturing expanded and televisions became more affordable. More options were available for viewing, taking more time away from papers and magazines. Baby Boomers had a home. Politicians could now talk to them through TV. They could put their message out to the masses with vanilla speeches that were heavy with words but light in substance. And people bought it. They were too busy to pay attention to what was in the details of the laws being passed.
As years passed, new programming was developed. Soap operas and game shows entered the fray. Live sporting events are broadcasted. More choices were available for our viewing pleasure. The news became shorter to allow more time for the new programming. Stories became highlights. Politicians became very adapt at using the “Sound Bite”, a 5 to 10 second clip that would resonate with his or her town back home. “Hey, our guy was on TV; he must be doing good things. He said some nice words I believe in. Now turn it back to the game.” Meanwhile, back in Washington, more liberties are being removed from your life without your knowledge.
In today’s world, almost every teenager was raised with cable or satellite television, a game console of some sort, and a smart phone. Televisions are used as in-house arcade screens. On-line program streaming has replaced most cable networks, which replaced network programs in viewership years ago. Who has time for politics now with 500 or more channels to choose from? In the most recent election (2014 Mid-Term elections), the overall turnout was in the high 30% range. That means that Congress, the people who write and pass the laws we live by, was decided by 1/3rd of the voting population. How sad. American Idol and Dancing with the Stars are more important that your liberties and freedoms.
News today has become more opinion than news. News anchors today report on stories that they think you should be interested and put their spin on a story to influence the 10’s of people who are watching. The 5:00 nightly news, once a stable in every household, has been replaced by on-line stories. I remember hearing that 50% to 60% of adults under the age of 40 get their news from the Internet. And we all know that if it’s on the Internet, it must be true.
Referencing a segment that Jay Leno used to run on the Tonight Show called “Jay-walking”, I was amazed on the lack of political knowledge by Americans who could not answer simple questions regarding our Government, or other world leaders. Most people do not even know who their own elected official is. There are even some that do not know their Senator or who the Vice President is! Everyone just wants to be famous and on TV and does not want to bother themselves with today’s politics. That’s for old people.
From the time the TV was introduced, our overall reading and math skills have declined. Once in the top 10 in all measurable categories in the world, the US has slipped into the 40’s and 50’s in some categories. Are we getting dumber or is the world catching up with us? I don’t know for sure, but some of the countries that have past us do not have television. Coincidence? You be the judge.
Tell me what you think by leaving a comment below.