Kill your television

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Jul 23 08:32:48 MDT 2003

New York Press, Wednesday, July 23, 2003
The Glass Pipe
Kill your television while you still can.

by Matt Taibbi


I haven’t watched any tv for more than a month now, and except for a 
brief period during the war, scarcely at all since the new year. But I’m 
going to turn it on now and tell you what I see. It’s 12:45 on Friday, 
July 18:

WWOR, Channel 9 (New York): The Ricki Lake show. Graphic along the 
bottom announces that the segment topic is "Dirty Dogs." On stage are 
two black guys in their late 20s, one shaven-headed, one with rows. 
They’re laughing, and the audience is hooting. Cut to smug-faced Ricki: 
She says, "Now, when you refer to women as a taco–do they like that?"

Click! What the fuck!

A half hour later:

E!, WPIX and FSNY, in rapid succession: A Verizon commercial depicts two 
pregnant men lounging around at home in front of the television, 
discussing their internet access options. A Hilshire Farm Deli Select 
meats commercial features a supermarket butcher whose wife calls him up 
at work to ask him to bring home some of his choice deli meats. 
Secretly, he buys Deli Select pre-wrapped meat instead of the actual 
deli meat. At home, he cringes, afraid to admit this to her. Finally, on 
FSNY: the Time Warner commercial where the bald, cringing husband is 
berated by his in-charge wife for his fictional decision to decorate 
their living room with gnu heads.

Jesus Christ! Click!

That was about fifty seconds total of tv, and already my "What the 
Fuck!" juice was noticeably depleted. It only takes a few minutes to 
"learn" the one thing television has to teach–the battering to death of 
your freak-out reflex.

But we need our freak-out reflexes. They’re essential to our sanity. 
When you cease to be horrified by the horrifying, you really cease to 
exist as a person. In life you either speak your mind or die. You either 
keep asking questions or die. If you don’t force life to be a dialogue, 
you become a lump of putrid flesh waiting for its turn, which is what I 
was last year.

The other day I saw an ad in Time magazine for a Nissan Altima. The ad 
depicts a young, bald father (an increasingly ubiquitous figure in 
commercial media, incidentally) lounging on a bed with his newborn 
child, reading cooingly to it out of… a Nissan Altima owner’s manual!

I recoiled in horror from the picture. Why does a newborn child need to 
be shown a car catalogue? Is Dad opening his infant up to the joys of 
future auto purchases? How early, exactly, do we need to become shoppers?

I called Nissan in California and asked Monica Liefer in the media 
office what it was all about. "Our position," she said, "is that Dad is 
so excited about his new car purchase, he’s reading his baby a bedtime 
story out of the Nissan Altima owner’s manual."

I shuddered. "Is the Nissan Altima owner’s manual an appropriate bedtime 
story for a child?" I asked.

"He’s just happy about his purchase," she said. "And babies like cars."

Whatever. It was a shitty answer. But at least I asked–and at least they 
know someone is asking.

Right now most of the country is busy asking one question, about whether 
or not President Bush lied to us before going to war. It’s a good 
question. But it seems to me there are thousands of better ones closer 
to home, and we’re just too tired to ask them.



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