June 4, 2001
Last week the Globe and Mail printed a three part series that attempted to redeem television's reputation and rescue it from those darn 'elitists' who think of it as low-brow at best and a menace at worst.
On the fourth day, they invited Adbuster's editor, Kalle Lasn to speak on behalf of the anti-television faction (link expires June 7, 2001).
While Lasn took up the invitation, he declined to list all the reasons why television is the drug of the nation and instead simply recommended a reading of Jerry Mander's Four Arguments For the Elimination of Television.
Lasn then goes on to frame the television spat within a larger, not-asked-for question (a question that he just happens to embraces in the latest issue of Adbusters):
From: "Toxic Culture USA"
Nobody is throwing their TV set out of the window, in hopes it will land on Rupert Murdoch. No anti-trust legal action is pending against AOL-Time Warner. No media reform movement has gelled. The best that media activists have been able to muster is lots of loose talk about media democracy, public access to the airwaves and a fundamental new human "right to communicate" for this communication age of ours.
But now a number of provocative psychosocial studies have appeared that may rejuvenate this whole debate. These ground breaking studies point to a growing toxicity in American culture. They suggest that cultural toxins have now reached dangerously high levels, helping explain the high school shootings, the skyrocketing use of legal and illegal psychoactive drugs, our growing problems with obesity and psychosomatic illness, rage in public places, and the general sense of cynicism and hopelessness that is enveloping our culture.
Lasn's promise to get to root of the above list of ills is a pretty tall-order, and he backs up these claims with 15 reviews of these provocative studies, although currently only three are available (and are worth a read):
This psycho-social approach isn't really a new departure for Lasn as Adbusters has always billed itself as the "Journal of the Mental Environment".
Now while I'm not sure how much I hold that post-modern living is "toxic", I do think that there is some truth to the statement. I speak from personal experience: I've went from being a pop-culture junkie to an anti-TV zealot (right now, I'm somewhere in between).
So while I may not completely believe in the "culture as toxin" idea as much as Lasn, I really do like this novel approach to the debate. When we speak of technology and post-modern living, we almost always speak of it in terms of what we have gained but rarely do we mention of what we may have lost.
It makes me depressed just thinking about it.