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Jerry Mander : Arguments for the Elimination of Television

Dernière mise à jour : 23 avr. 2022

Extract from :

Jerry Mander

Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television


"Twenty-five billion dollars a year is spent in advertising, which is more than we spend on higher education nationally. The first problem we have in the information age is too much information inundating people with conflicting versions of increasingly complex events. People are giving up on understanding: overload leads to passiveness, not involvement. The second problem is that TV causes us to exchange active, first-hand experience for passive second-hand experience. That is, our experience is mediated by someone else’s perception of reality.

TV addresses people in the midst of the confusion, isolation, and passivity that it has created in their minds. These are the ideal conditions for offering the unifying leadership of strong-man politics, which usually leads to autocracy instead of democratic freedom and independence.


Artificial environments deprive us of a direct knowledge of nature. Our knowledge is limited to the created environment, and so we know only what we are told by “the creator” of that environment. Whoever controls the creative process, defines reality for everyone else. We become subject to the creator, and the “confinement of our experience” becomes the basis of the creator’s power over us.

Technocrats expropriate knowledge and claim it as their restricted domain by controlling the content of that knowledge, and the medium through which it is conveyed to us. This forces us to abdicate our own experience in favor of the opinion of the “experts,” self-declared though they may be. We are effectively silenced before the television screen. There is no dissent allowed, and no debate possible. That means any search for truth is necessarily curtailed by the medium.

Discovery of truth cannot be made in a rush – it requires time, patience, and observation. TV undermines the very foundation of discovery and perseverance. The normal path of learning in a pre-technical society is for individual observation. We then share our individual observations in a group, and have them assessed by the leader(s) or other impartial observers. We then inform all observers of the conclusions. There is no group involvement in television, no chance to be heard, no interactive wrestling with the issues, and the clock is always running, cutting short the discussion and the examination of what is true.


In George Orwell’s 1984, it was crucial to destroy print media or there could be no control of the past. The party slogan was, “who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.” The party told everyone to ignore their eyes and ears and listen only to the party, the “experts.” In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley paints a similar picture where corporate managers and engineers control “truth” and the people are conditioned to seek self-gratification of things easily supplied by the social engineers.

TV by its nature generates confusion: in its interspersed advertising, its format, its contradictory moral tales, and its competing channels with their competing views on every topic. To deal with confusion, power has to be centralized and government control increased. Confusion works to its advantage. To be effective workers, the population must be willing servants of the government. Toward this end, any government which seeks control over its people must confine their experience and awareness to pre-determined patterns which it defines. It sets up a straw man of mayhem, anarchy, and danger, and then it offers its protection and its comforting order to those who have been taught to fear the straw man. Governments seldom seize power. They are usually granted power, by the population. Television offers too convenient a technology for this process.

Eight Conditions for Autocracy to Flower

1. Eliminate personal knowledge

2. Eliminate points of comparison

3. Separate people from each other

4. Unify everyone’s experience

5. Occupy the mind with distractions

6. Encourage drugs and conflict

7. Centralize knowledge and information

8. Redefine happiness and meaning


TV is the primary medium of advertising. It is designed to convert us into consumers of anything and everything. It uses our experiences, feelings, perceptions, behaviors, and desires to convince us of our incompleteness and inadequacy, so the transformer can make us complete and adequate with his product or service.

We become no different than a chimpanzee in a lab that has been removed from his natural environment. He is supplied with buttons to push to provide himself with food, water, and occasional companionship. The effect on the chimp is to make him lethargic and suicidal. His choices are limited to what his captors offer. He reduces his own mental and physical expectations to fit what can be gotten, and he becomes addicted to whatever experiences remain available to him. If he cannot adapt this way, then he goes crazy, he revolts, or he dies.

The purpose of advertising is to unify and homogenize people and culture. The fact that you choose a Ford and I choose a Volvo doesn’t mean diversity; it means unity. We agree that we need a car that is essentially identical in everything but style. And even the style difference is nominal. TV is both a commodity and a vehicle of advertising. It identifies community-wide needs and it calls us to action. It defines our inadequacy and supplements our short-comings. It is the great oracle supplying answers to questions it posits itself. And it is the great confiner, encouraging us to separate ourselves from interaction with family, friends, and community even as they sit in the room with us. It is advisor, teacher, guide, and advocate, controlled by the few over the many.


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