Politics & Policy

Turning Off The Tube; A Final Word


If you think there’s nothing good on TV, you’re not looking hard enough. This has always been my motto, nay, my modus vivendi. Actually, it’s just the thing I say when I have to admit I watch more television than a night watchman at Circuit City. I have never claimed it is good for me. In fact, it is certainly a contributing factor to why I am getting so fat that I have a craving to hold a gold bikini-wearing Princess Leia by a tight leash. I know that I’d be better read if I could get past the third paragraph of anything before having to check if Pamela Anderson was caught in a gill net. I am jealous of my friends who can say “when” and turn the thing off and still be in their home. Unfortunately, unlike Jabba the Hutt who I so resemble, I am not immune to the Jedi mind tricks of my cathode-ray tube master.

So in the grand spirit of do what I say, not what I do, I don’t have a problem with the new recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics that children younger than the age of two should not watch any television. They also recommend that older children not have televisions in their bedrooms. I can live with that too. They base these and other recommendations on the fact (yes, fact) that what people watch on TV affects their behavior. Why just this morning I tried to save a drowning supermodel from a giant octopus. I had considerable difficulty.

Undoubtedly we will be hearing from various Hollywood civil libertarians who think saying television is a bad influence is unfair. We will probably hear from Alec Baldwin, Hollywood’s best known and most influential idiot. He was just listed by Talk magazine as one of America’s “best talkers.” This is true in the same sense that sharks are among the animal kingdom’s “best” eaters. Sharks will eat anything and Baldwin will say anything, regardless of quality. Remember, he was the guy with that really funny joke about stoning Henry Hyde to death. And we might even hear from a segment of the gay rights community that thinks Tinky Winky, the gay Teletubby, needs to be a staple of every infant’s education. But no matter who the individual players are, we will undoubtedly be subjected to a host of civil libertarian ideologues who think this is the dawn of censorship or fascism or some other word or concept they don’t understand.

There are some debates that are greatly helped by ideology. Do citizens have the right to own guns? Should the government be in the journalism business? Should gays be allowed to marry? Should Vulcan and Romulus merge?

Other debates are helped less by ideology. Should the Treasury Department or the Federal Reserve regulate banking?


Should we fund the F-22? Should people be allowed to put tinted covers on their license plates, thus obscuring the numbers which negates the whole reason for the plates in the first place? (If someone can send me a reason why this should be legal I want to hear it.)

I think the vast bulk of the arguments over television and popular culture are needlessly ideological. This is due largely to the fact that a lot of rich companies pay a lot of rich lawyers and advocates to make it so. The simple fact is that if Joe Camel — who’s never been on TV in his current form — can make kids smoke, why can’t movie stars? Indeed, corporations spend billions on TV commercials because the networks and the survey research indicate that such ads persuade “consumers.” But the huge chunks of programming with all the sex and violence (hmmmm . . . sex and violence) are supposed to have no effect on “people” at all.

The NAACP is going nuts about providing more good role models on television programming. Presumably this means that there is such a thing as a “bad role model.” If so, this person must do something to be bad right? If he’s a role model, than he must have an effect right? If . . . oh, I give up.

Parents know all of this because most parents throw their ideology out the window when it comes to their own kids. Witness the number of public-school champions who send their children to private schools.

The real trick for parents is the one I have a problem with. Turning the damned thing off.

We apologize for the abbreviated Goldberg File today. But Mitch can’t find Hobie and … no, I just have a lot of work to do if I’m going to get in my daily six hours of TV.


But I do want to say thanks very much for the numerous clarifications and corrections of yesterday’s column, and the praise too. Since I sincerely doubt my cadres of freelance proofers out there missed anything, we respectfully request that everyone else just wait until Friday for the vetting of the column (for example, no one need tell me that Jimmy Carter did not, in fact, command a sub). But just so you know, nothing that was brought up subtracts from the thesis that the president’s abuse excuse is goofy. Though some of the points did contribute to the notion that I need to turn off the TV while I write the G-File.


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