“One nation under God has turned into one nation under the influence of one drug television, the drug of the nation breeding ignorance and feeding radiation” – Television, the Drug of the Nation-Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy
Do you watch television? Or play Playstation or Xbox on a television set?
Congratulations. You’re a drug addict. But not in the way you may think.People often tell me they watch television to relax. Of course, given the physiological effects of the medium of television on the human brain – not the content – it is actually impossible not to relax while watching television.
This is Your Brain on Television
Within about 30 seconds, your brain waves change from mostly beta-waves, indicating awareness and alert attention, to mostly alpha-waves, indicating a daydream-like state and a receptive lack of attention. (An activity like reading, by contrast, produces mostly beta-waves). Further, the left hemisphere of the brain, the logical/analytic centre, tunes out while watching television, and processing switches to the right hemisphere, which deals less with rational processes and more with non-linear emotional processes.
Does this sound like old news? It certainly should, as it has been known for decades. The research covered above is that of Herbert Krugman in 1969. In his words “…the basic electrical response of the brain is clearly to the medium and not to content difference…. [Television is] a communication medium that effortlessly transmits huge quantities of information not thought about at the time of exposure.” (Need I point out that Krugman is one of the pioneers of modern advertising?)
When brain activity switches from the left to right hemisphere, it releases a spike of endorphins, beta-endorphins and enkephalins. Endorphins react on the opioid receptors in the brain – the same receptors as the opiate class of drugs (opium, heroin, morphine, etc) react with. While produced naturally in the body, endorphins are structurally identical to opium and opium derivatives.
Drumroll please… You’re a fucking junkie. If you are a heavy television user and attempt to stop watching television long term, you will experience anxiety, frustration and depression. (Hey, aren’t these the very sensations you watch television to alleviate and chill out from?) Studies have shown that TV is tough to kick, with similar withdrawal symptoms to kicking heroin.
The Engine of Public Manipulation
Watching TV produces an altered state in the viewer, a dissociated chemical trance of the same type as that of extremely addictive and illegal drugs, yet televisions are ubiquitous, and vast numbers of ordinary citizens watch television many hours a day.
Why is this state of affairs allowed? The powers of state which make marijuana, psychedelics, nitrous oxide, and now even party pills illegal, benefit from the populace being hooked on television. And the powers of commerce benefit from a captive narcotised audience.
Since JFK and Camelot, modern politics is conducted by television. But when we watch television, the higher brain function regions (midbrain and neocortex) shut down, and we are less able to process information critically. Most activity shifts to lower brain regions, like the limbic system, otherwise known as the reptile brain, the home of our deeply embedded “fight or flight” reactions. These largely operate outside of conscious awareness.
Politicians exploit this by appealing to our base drives. Have you noticed during the ridiculous, impossible, and frankly non-existent “War on Terror”, that we are exhorted to be very very afraid of the boogeyman? (I mean Islamic Fundamentalist terrorists.) No matter how demonstrably false and absurd the claims are to reason, the fear message is constantly delivered via television to bypass our reason and draw a response from our reptile brain. This response leaves us helpless to manipulation by our leaders (as seen on BBC documentary The Power of Nightmares).
George Bush would not be possible without a world hooked on television. Further – the neo-cortex, the part of the brain used in distinguishing fantasy from reality – is switched off while we watch TV. The tele-visual fantasy is perceived as real and processed outside of our higher conscious functioning, yet we receive a large proportion of our information about the world via this medium.
Speaking of manipulation… have you noticed that the ever-present television advertisements often don’t make any sense? That it can be really hard to work out what the product is? This is because advertisers know that they are speaking directly to your unconscious. There is no point in making an appeal to logic, because your logic went to sleep thirty seconds into the experience. Modern advertising is a scarily sophisticated science of persuasion. (Check out the documentary Century of the Self if you want to know more.) Images are designed to create emotional associations and manipulate us at the reptile brain level of our consciousness.
And remember, television is funded by advertising. TV stations sell an unwary captive, narcotised, audience to advertisers. Nobody involved in television wants you to kick the habit. Television makes the population easier to control for the powers that be, easier to access and influence for the corporate despoilers of the world, and the programmers are merely the middlemen.
What are the long term social effects of mass drug addiction?
Junkies exist in a flat state of numbness. The external world does not matter, only the next fix.
Have you noticed the world seems to be going to hell since the 60s and widespread adoption of televisual crack throughout the West? We complain of being isolated and unhappy, yet struggle to rouse ourselves to give a damn about anything that involves getting off the couch – away from the opium box, away from the pusher. Is there a relationship between modern social malaise and alienation, apathy in the face of oncoming environmental catastrophe, war crimes by Western powers pursuing ceaseless unjustifiable wars, and most people being junkies?
And now a word or two from the late psychedelic visionary guru Terence McKenna on the social effects of television:
“The content of television is not a vision but a manufactured data stream that can be sanitized to ‘protect’ or impose cultural values. Thus we are confronted with an addictive and all-pervasive drug that delivers an experience whose message is whatever those who deal the drug wish it to be. Could anything provide a more fertile ground for fostering fascism and totalitarianism than this? In the United States, there are many more televisions than households, the average television set is on six hours a day, and the average person watches more than five hours a day—nearly one-third of their waking time. Aware as we all are of these simple facts, we seem unable to react to their implications. Serious study of the effects of television on health and culture has only begun recently.”
(For instance, recent Otago University findings that heavy television viewing – more than two hours a day – in childhood leads to increases in attention problems in adolescence. We gleefully adopt technology without understanding its effects on us.)
Terence McKenna, in his 1992 book Fool of the Gods says, “No drug in history has so quickly or completely isolated the entire culture of its users from contact with reality. And no drug in history has so completely succeeded in remaking in its own image the values of the culture that it has infected.
“Television is by nature the dominator drug par excellence. Control of content, uniformity of content, repeatability of content make it inevitably a tool of coercion, brainwashing and manipulation. Television induces a trance state in the viewer that is the necessary precondition for brainwashing. As with all other drugs and technologies, television’s basic character cannot be changed; television is no more reformable than is the technology that produces automatic assault rifles.”
Ready to turn off your TV yet?
William S. Burroughs, renowned author of Junky and Naked Lunch, and probably the greatest modern writer on addiction, states plainly that the point at which someone quits junk is when they find something better to do that they cannot do while on junk.
In this case, you will stop watching TV when you get a life. If you are trapped in a cycle of work/school, then home and television, dissatisfied and numb with your lot, then you need something better to do. So what are you gonna do?
Frankly, I don’t think it’s my place to tell you. Maybe go hang with some friends, do something creative, interesting, or exciting. Make something, do something, and have a great fucking time. Get involved with your community. There’s a lot that’s fucked up in the world and there’s only us junkies lying around to fix it.
And frankly, the cool people aren’t staying home watching TV. They’re way too busy doing cool stuff.
Here’s one suggestion for something you can do right now. Go to your television, take out the aerial, turn the set on, and leave it on as a reminder. The content does not matter. What it does to your brain does. And personally, I find that static gives a reassuring end-of-the-world ambience that keeps me sharp. Tune into static. If you’re going to sit around on heroin, know it. When people come to your house and ask, tell them why, drag out this article. Give a damn about yourself and your friends and family.
Remember, the first step in overcoming an addiction is admitting it exists. You cannot free your mind if it is turned off. If your mind is not free, you are not free. If you are not free, you are a slave.
I’m sure you are all doubtless capable, should you turn off your televisions long enough, to google for the many resources to be found on the web. Check out www.disinfo.com for a great article on this material. Search for “television” on their site. Also check out http://www.undulatingungulate.com/blog, The Perfect Machine by Joyce Nelson and Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander.