Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Subtle Shaping

The genius of television is that, to shape a people as you want, you don’t need unrestrained governmental authority, nor do you need to tell people what you want of them. Indeed, if you told them what to do, they would be likely to refuse.
No. You merely have to show them, over and over, day after day, the behaviour you wish to instill. Show them enough mothers of illegitimate children heartwarmingly portrayed. Endlessly broadcast storylines suggesting that excellence is elitist. Constantly air ghetto values and moiling back-alley mobs grunting and thrusting their faces at the camera – and slowly, unconsciously, people will come to accept and then to imitate them. Patience is everything. Mold the young and in thirty years you will have molded the society. Don’t tell them anything. Just show them.
And television is magic: People can’t not watch. No matter how bad the fare is, how much it offends against their most deeply held values, they will stare at it rather than be alone with their thoughts. Some of them will say, those who know they ought to know better, “There are some good things on TV. I like the History Channel.” Yet they watch, and not just the History Channel. They cannot read a book instead. In saying this I am not striking a literary pose or making a conservative argument for high culture. I’m stating what I believe to be a psychological fact: People will watch a screen.


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