Not having a TV has led to complete, catastrophic cultural isolation. As an example of this savage, self-caused social disconnect: I never learned to pronounce the name “Duchovny.” And now I cannot tell you whether the name “Kutcher” is sounded like more “crutch-er” or “cooch-er.”
It’s a tragedy of unfathomable proportions.
After first giving up the telescreen, I even had to forego watching great commercials. Since they are among the great creative gems of our time, it was nearly an unbearable loss.
Somehow I soldiered on. Eventually the miracle of YouTube brought the Budweiser clydesdales — and those wonderful Dalmatians — back into my life.
Still, slow, iffy ‘Net connections continue to deny me the right to watch entire shows like “Real Housewives of Peoria, Illinois,” “Who Cares Who Survives?” “Celebrities Who Die After Rehab,” and “Count the Marriages of the Kardashians.”
About 10 years after giving up television, I spent a snowbound night in a motel room in Utah, just me, a pizza, and a TV set. From that I was able to observe that nothing much had changed. Everything had just gotten more jumpy. The same shows but with “smash cuts” and lotso FX. Later I watched some HBO series on DVD and noticed that all barriers against vulgar language had fallen. That was about it.
Now it’s getting close to 20 years sans TV. Thanks to website links, I’m able to catch bits and snips of news and commentary. While I still await hearing some talking head reveal the correct pronunciation of Kutcher, I have finally noticed one real, serious difference between what was in The Box in 1993 and what’s there now: “news” is noise. “Commentary” on the news is ill-informed morons shouting at each other.
Joel gave a perfect example the other day. I’d heard of Rachel Maddow and even though I assumed I’d disagree with her on a fair number of issues, I’d also assumed she’d be intelligent and have some gravitas. I mean, otherwise, how would anybody ever be taken seriously as a commentator? But nope. Just a big, noisy ego with no brain behind it. Just showing off. Throwing tantrums like a two-year-old, and just as meaningless as a two-year-old’s. Just like Bill O’Reilly on the “right” and a bunch of her fellows (Piers Morgan, you listening?) on the “left.”
You’ll have to forgive me for being naive. If you regularly watch news and commentary you know all this. You probably already know that the only real TV commentary on issues is being delivered by comedians like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
I didn’t. I knew, of course, that there were ranters; there’ve been ranters and ravers as long as there’s been a medium to host them and an audience to be buffaloed.
What I didn’t know is that the shouters and whiners and don’t-let-anybody-else-get-a-word-in people had taken over. That they now are the news and commentary.
Maybe in a way it’s a good thing. The calm authority of the Murrows, Cronkites, and Sevareids of old was always an illusion, anyway. The news media leaders of past generations were always just members of the elite, delivering a pre-packaged message designed to keep We the Little People in line. Maybe the Maddows and O’Reillys represent a useful democratization of the media. Maybe their ignorantly loud opinionating (like drunken uncles at a holiday table) helpfully rips away the curtain of legitimacy to reveal what’s really going on in the world of Authoritah.
But just before viewing that Maddow clip, I was reading Atlas Shrugged and thinking how cartoonishly absurd Rand’s whining, sloganeering villains sounded. Rand presents her bad guys as people who’ve given up thinking, who can only parrot slogans, make self-righteous demands, and ultimately devour the brains of their betters. People who have no inner selves, but only a parasitic existance.
I thought how badly Rand overstated her case, how foolishly broadly she drew her villains. Then I went back and listened to Maddow and O’Reilly and Morgan et al. again.