Defense of TV
It seems television has developed a bad reputation. Many claim that watching T.V. makes people stupid and lazy, it ruins the imagination, and the commercials are intolerable. To see television being thrown under the bus is like seeing the same thing done to a good friend, and I feel duty-bound to defend that friend.
I cannot claim that the majority of programming on T.V. is designed to stimulate thought; in fact it sometimes appears to be the opposite. But the point of critical thinking is to apply critical thought to everything we are exposed to. The statement that T.V makes people stupid and lazy, and therefore should not be watched, is sort of lazy in itself. To attempt to discern meaning in the stupid shows and try to determine why people watch them beyond the, “stupid and lazy,” argument is a much greater challenge. Beyond that, there is valid programming on T.V. if you are willing to sift through the garbage. You have to endure a lot of trash to find the diamonds in the rough. There is a lot of mindless dribble, but then again, there is also Jeopardy.
Technology has given T.V. fans methods to eliminate the garbage automatically and only watch what they choose. On the surface, this seems to disable the argument that watching T.V. makes people stupid and lazy, but I am not so sure. Devices like DVRs and Internet T.V. services can ensure the user never watches anything they don’t think they will like. While this means that some people will only watch quality programming, it also means that others will only watch the opposite. In both situations, they are limiting their exposure. The key to education is being exposed to new knowledge. If you never have to watch something you don’t like, then you will never have to really form an opinion. To deliberately ignore something, even if it is something stupid, is still ignorance. This is an attitude that should be avoided.
I believe T.V. has helped to hone my critical thinking skills, and it has also helped in the development of my imagination. It is not the same type of imagining as reading a book where the mind creates all of the scenery. It is a more critical type of imagination. To ask the question, “What would I do if I were in the situation on the screen?” opens the floodgates for hypothetical questions with imaginative answers. Granted, the reality shows and sitcoms leave little room for imagination, but watching a good sci-fi or fantasy show, a historical documentary, or a comedy is just as good as reading a book. You just have to make sure to think about what you watch.
The best case against television is the commercials. Most of the anti-T.V. people hate commercials to the point of actual anger. This is somewhat understandable, given the impression that corporations are going into their houses and forcing them to buy things they don’t want. The problem with this thinking is that it gives the commercials way too much power. If someone buys what they see on T.V. it is probably simply because they wanted it.
Neither the commercials nor the corporations are taking consumers to the store at gunpoint. It seems to me that the commercials cast such a wide net they are lucky to get any response. If you watch over-the-air T.V. and do not buy the advertised products then you are essentially getting free entertainment. How often does anyone get anything for free? Of course, if you pay for cable or satellite you still must endure commercials. This seems completely wrong, but that is a rant for another day. I find that the commercials are usually genuinely entertaining, especially since I have no intention of actually buying the products. For those that cannot get past their irrational hatred of commercials, I recommend muting them rather than complaining, but I can promise you will miss out on some good laughs.
Television is a wonderful invention. It really is like a magic window. And like all magical things, there will always be people who want to burn it.