On February 5th, 2006 the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.
I don’t bring this up because I am a Steeler fan, because I am not. I don’t bring this up because I am a football fan, because I was at one time but am no longer. I bring this up because I live in Western Pennsylvania, and the Steelers playing in the Super Bowl caused a great deal of excitement in this area and my school age kids were caught up in it. They made me promise to watch it with them and I did, cheering for the Seahawks just to aggravate them which they will tell you is what I like to do best.
I bring this particular event up for one reason. That game was the last TV broadcast I have ever watched. Before that game I had not watched for another couple of years. There is no television in my living room anymore at all. I have never seen Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, Survivor or any of these shows that have gained a wide viewing audience in the last decade. I have no problem at all with people who do spend their evenings watching these shows, I just choose not to.
For me there is nothing more amusing than the stunned looks that I get from people when I inform them of this. They typically look at you with a momentary disbelief, as if you are kidding, and then it sinks in that you are serious. Then they glance at you as if you were a leper and continue the conversation talking to someone else. Several years ago I got a call from the Nielson Ratings people who wanted to send me a journal and asked me if I would fill in what I watched over the course of the month. I told the nice lady that I did not watch TV. She responded that it did not matter if I only watched 5-10 shows a month, it would still be helpful if I told them what they were. She did not get it. I thanked her kindly and hung up the phone.
The reason that I do not watch is the same reason I no longer buy music or pay attention to sports. One day I just realized that the popular culture had nothing in it that I was interested in. I was no longer willing to swallow what the people at the TV networks and their advertisers wanted to feed me. I wrote in a previous post about the Medicine Shows and how the entertainment they provided was simply a means to get the audience to stand still so that they could hammer them with the sales pitch. The first clue that I was having a problem following pop culture is that I did not understand the point of most of the commercials anymore. Some I was not even sure what they were selling.
What do I do then? I do a lot of reading, mostly non-fiction history with some of the classics of literature thrown in. I spend some time each night on the internet, chasing down some idea or another, or researching whatever subject happens to be the absorbing errand driving me at that time. I belong to some forums on the net that discuss a wide variety of topics, and am a moderator on the antique bottle board at Treasure Times Forum. And of course, I stop in here now and again to bore you with trivial details about my life, or to tell an interesting story that floats to the surface of my mental collection.
Interestingly enough, the wife does not watch either, nor do two of my three children. All are avid readers and independent thinkers which I think is a direct result of not being indoctrinated by television. It worries me the amount of people who can name the last “American Idol” winner or all of Angelina and Brad’s children but would be hard pressed to tell you who the Governor of Pennsylvania is, or the Secretary of Defense, State, or their Senators and Congressmen. They can tell you why someone was voted off of an island, but not how the elected people who are running a good portion of their lives have voted on anything.
Maybe these elected officials like it better that way. I think they would rather have us entertained and oblivious.
I have also found that I enjoy YouTube, where I found this gem from the movie “Network” from 1976. This message is as serious and applicable today as it was when the movie was released. If you are offended by objectionable language you may want to ignore it.
Howard Beale/Network 1976