Monday, July 25, 2011

Smashing the TV

Since William Oddie's post on 'Catholics Unplug Your Televisions' (CUT) I've noticed a couple of other interesting articles on the subject of why so much programming is socially liberal, and so inimical to the Faith.

Tim Stanley, an English academic specialising in American history, is actually in Hollywood to research a book about the film industry. He has a fascinating post about the culture of the place, which, he thinks, explains the liberal tenor of its output better than any conspiracy. He writes:

No, the problem that the conservative faces isn’t intellectual, it’s social. Conservatism tends to be raw and unfiltered. In conversation, it punctures the Zen equilibrium that sustains everyone in Los Angeles. The industry works by networks and anyone who can’t sustain a long conversation about the importance of raw carrots and natural fibers to the functioning of Yin and the flowing of Yang won’t fit in. One Right-wing writer told me that following 9/11, he found work dried up. There was plenty of interest in his output (he’s deservedly famous) but when it came to small talk before pitches, or the gossip at the writers’ in LA Farm, he was immediately frozen out. “People would open with, ‘Isn’t George Bush a moron?’ And I would say, ‘No, I voted for him.’ And I could feel I was losing their respect.”

True, this suggests that Hollywood has a leftward prejudice. But the real problem with what the writer said wasn’t the content but the act of disagreement itself. Hollywood conversations deal in hyperbolic affirmations covering for lies: “You’re amazing. That pitch was the best ever. You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met. Adam Sandler is the funniest man alive!” Disagreement and contradiction are acts of verbal rape.

I find this all too credible. It explains how typical Hollywood output is not just liberal, but self-affirming pap. Something pretty similar, I would wager, is going on at the BBC.

The seriousness of the problem should not be underestimated. The characterisation and plots of TV shows and films can consistently affirm liberal attitudes without the viewer even noticing. This is discussed in the other article which has come up recently, via CFNews, a book review in The Washington Times (see it here). The book is 'Prime Time Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV' by Ben Shapiro; it is reviewed by Jeffrey Kuhner. Kuhner writes, of this historical development of the problem:

One of the watershed programmes was All in the Family. The character of Archie Bunker symbolised the progressive caricature of Conservatives -- ignorant, racist and xenophobic. The show frequently denounced the Vietnam War and even celebrated draft dodgers as heroes. It also broke new ground in portraying the father figure, Archie, as a working-class bigot who was less enlightened than his anti-war, socially permissive son-in-law, Meathead (played by the odious leftist Rob Reiner).

'All in the Family' was first broadcast in 1971, and set the tone for the decades which followed. How often have you seen socially conservative or religious characters portrayed in a favourable light? Let me rephrase that: have you EVER seen such a character portrayed in a favourable light in a mainstream film or series? How often have you seen such characters ridiculed and outwitted? How often have such characters turned out to be hypocrites? If there is anything attractive about them, or a streak of honesty, how often have they been converted to a more relaxed, progressive, liberal approach to life? (Has the opposite ever happened?)

This is insidious and poisonous. There are intrinsic problems with TV as entertainment: the tendency of people simply to switch it on and watch whatever pops up, even if rather bored by it, for hours on end. What Shapiro is talking about, however, is a problem not intrinsic to the medium, but accidental: the fact that the people making so much of the programming are peddling a relentless liberal agenda. It makes it even more boring than it would be otherwise.

There are lots of good films, and from time to time there are good series on TV. All of them can be seen on DVD, for hire or for sale. Vast quantities of stuff is becoming available on YouTube and Gloria TV. It is becoming possible to access films and programmes by downloading them (legally, and temporarily) from the internet for a small fee. All in all, the telly is losing its indispensibility as a window onto popular culture. Popular culture is itself increasingly fragmented: it is no longer the case that 'everyone' is watching anything in particular as it is broadcast.

All of this opens up the possibility that instead of making provision for the entire sewer to be delivered to your sitting room every day, you can be selective and choose some decent things to watch from time to time, and stop paying the TV License at the same time. Kuhner concludes his review:

Conservatives have one powerful weapon: They can flip their TV sets off. I have not watched television in years, sparing my senses - and soul - from the ubiquitous onslaught. Hollywood has declared war on Middle America. It's time we declared war on it.

So go on: Catholics: Unplug Your Televisions!

See the CUT website here.


  1. Prayer Crusader3:10 pm

    <p><span><span><span>I was very interested to see how the broadcast media reported the tragedy in Norway. <span> </span>They do seem to make much of Breivik as fundamentalist Christian particularly in BBC reports. Yet at the same time seem to ignore the fact that he is a freemason. A priest once informed CUT that the BBC is full of freemasons and this is the real reason why they attack Catholicism. At the time I ignored this bit of information, not being one who really believes in conspiracy theories. However, it does make one think?</span></span></span>
    </p><p><span><span><span>Prayer Crusader</span></span></span></p>

  2. Fr Tim Finigan6:51 pm

    Good post, Joe. I got rid of my television in 2003 and have never missed it. As you say, we can now receive entertainment if we wish to by choosing for ourselves rather than by submitting to the "push" model. Although there are obviously great dangers with the internet, I am optimistic that young people are watching less television. At least if they are choosing what to see, there is some chance of influencing them to use their free will to choose the good.

  3. John Fannon11:16 pm

    In this country if you want to watch a DVD, you have to buy a television and pay a television licence and BBC wins again. You might think that you will watch DVDs on your computer. But how long before a licence will be demanded for this? (I read recently that computer owners in Germany already have to pay a licence fee). With more material available on the BBC i-player I would be surprised if there were not  already plans to implement this in the UK.
    I think the way forward is to demand that now digital TV is almost fully implemented, that a pay per view regime be set up - especially if you could pay per second of programming time. Then you could switch off if the programme was not to your liking. The BBC has resisted this so far claiming that the technology was not available. It is now.

  4. Joseph Shaw8:01 am

    This is not true. You can buy sets incapable of receiving a signal, which only show DVDs - I own one. You can also plug a DVD player into a data projector, which I also do, or buy an integrated DVD projector. In none of these cases are you liable for a TV license.
    I can't see the BBC being allowed to charge a fee for computer ownership. They may want to start charging for IPlayer use but I'd have no objection to paying for the occasional thing I actually wanted to watch, just as I pay for BBC films on DVD. What I object to is paying for the rubbish, the porn, and the anti-Catholic propaganda, as you have to under the license system.

  5. Prayer Crusader10:25 am

    I've taken the receiver element out of my TV and hung it above the TV and we just play DVDs. The receiver element is damaged so it can't be reused. It now forms part of a mobile.
    The TV licence people have sent me about four letters with increasing levels of threat. When they do finially come I shall ask them to get a warrant before letting them in my home. I like wasting the TV licence people's money which is why I do not respond to their threatening letters. A priest friend of CUT has suggested that we should try and convert the TV licencing inspectors when they visit, perhaps I will ask him to join me in a prayer for the damage the TV does to children. Even if you just play DVDs limit the amount of time your children spend watching for it can impair a childs brains development