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Jcrowley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-23-07 05:15 PM
Original message
Television Rots The Brain, Ruins The Body

Get the message: it's the medium

The evidence is incontrovertible: television rots the brain and ruins the body. We should see TV for what it is - the biggest public health threat of our time.

While controversy continues to surround the way the content of screen media affects our thoughts and behaviour, I have just reviewed a growing body of empirical evidence for the academic journal Biologist indicating that watching television causes physiological changes, and not for the better. Most of these effects occur irrespective of the type of programme people watch - whether it's Reservoir Dogs or the Teletubbies. It is the medium, not the message.

Reviewing 35 studies in well-respected scientific and medical journals, I identified 15 biological and cognitive effects linked to levels of television exposure. There was a dose-response relationship: both the average number of hours watched and the age at which a child begins watching television are central to the association with negative effects later on.

Those effects include alterations in activity, size and consistency of skin immune cells, an independent cause of obesity, changes in the endocrine and immune system, links with premature puberty in girls, subverting brain cell development underlying attention and impulse control, reducing cerebral blood flow and brain stimulation, sleeping disorders at all ages even from passive viewing, body-fat production, abnormal glucose metabolism and new Type 2 diabetes, a possible trigger for autism, lowered metabolic rate, raised blood cholesterol and risk for cardiovascular illness and death, substantial increases in child myopia. Most of these effects begin to appear at viewing levels far below the national average.

At the other end of the age spectrum, how much television we watch during our middle years (20-60) is now linked with the development of Alzheimer's disease. For each additional daily hour of middle-adulthood television viewing, the associated risk of Alzheimer's disease development increases. Watching television was described by the neuroscientists as "a non-intellectually stimulating activity" for brain function.
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TahitiNut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-23-07 05:21 PM
Response to Original message
1. "Correlation is not causation"
Edited on Fri Feb-23-07 05:22 PM by TahitiNut
This metastudy was discussed on DU several days ago, already. I say this, not to chastise, but to inform.
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Jcrowley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-23-07 05:30 PM
Response to Reply #1
3. Based on personal everyday observation
Edited on Fri Feb-23-07 05:31 PM by Jcrowley
I'd say the the study understates the impact of brain rottage caused by the tube. To think that people actually discuss what is happening, or about to happen or what they think might happen, on some program must be considered one of the most bizarre and eerily malevolent occurences in the history of this species which deems itself so sapient.

What people are ultimately then wrapping their mental states around is entirely mediated and dangerously fantastical. No wonder the folk walk around with immense confusion and frustration as they attempt to make sense of the world outside the cathode tube.

I recommend this:

However, when you watch television, the only way to escape the images is to turn the machine off. The medium of television is controlled by the sender, not the viewer. Images just flow, one after the next. "If you decide to watch television, then there's no choice but to accept the stream of electronic images as it comes," Mander says. "Since there is no way to stop the images, one merely gives over to them. More than this, one has to clear all channels of reception to allow them in more cleanly. Thinking only gets in the way."

The multitude of technical events and special effects that saturate the viewer throughout an average dose of television occur with such rapid frequency that any response is essentially eliminated. "Since television images move more quickly than a viewer can react, one has to chase after them with the mind," Mander says in the book.


One researcher interviewed by Mander explains: "The horror of television, is that the information goes in, but we don't react to it. It goes right into our memory pool and perhaps we react to it later but we don't know what we're reacting to. When you watch television you are training yourself not to react and so later on, you're doing things without knowing why you're doing them or where they came from."


"Television offers neither rest nor stimulation," Mander says. "Television inhibits your ability to think, but it does not lead to freedom of mind, relaxation or renewal. It leads to a more exhausted mind. You may have time out from prior obsessive thought patterns, but that's as far as television goes.


Why do you think they call it programming?
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Atman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-23-07 05:46 PM
Response to Reply #3
9. "Brain rottage" isn't even real.
It's a made-up condition by those who hate television. Society changes. You could just as easily blame cars for supplanting buggies and walking, therefore causing "body rottage." It's junk science. It is a guys' crusade against television because he doesn't like it. Period.

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PLF Donating Member (414 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-23-07 05:50 PM
Response to Reply #9
11. getting a little worked up there.

calm down, nobody is gonna take away your precious tv.

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Atman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-23-07 05:55 PM
Response to Reply #11
13. What is it with you people? Is there a "CALM" or "WORKED UP" icon I'm missing?
I'm not "worked up." I'm expressing my opinion. Just because it is different than yours doesn't mean I'm "worked up." I wish you could see me right now, kicked back, feet up, keyboard in my lap. I'm not "worked up" at all. I'm just disagreeing with the op. Sheesh.

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Jcrowley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-23-07 05:56 PM
Response to Reply #9
14. Nah

Sometimes on television, what is not seen is as important as what is seen. The images to the right of this article where never shown on American television during the 2003 war in Iraq. Television coverage of the war showed many things, however, much was left off the air. The reason none of these images were shown on TV is not out of any great patriotism by TV networks or some conspiracy between TV and the US government. Television, at its core, is about ratings. Television producers are not concerned with what people want to watch or what people should watch, but with what people will watch. Eyeballs on the screen.

The images to the right of this article are both disturbing and emotional. They show the effects of war and they show the truth. These pictures were taken by media from around the world as well as respected American news agencies like the Associated Press and Reuters. They were mostly found around the Internet from independent websites, however many were found on Yahoo! Pictures. Many of these images are hard to view. Many of them make me cry.

The reason pictures such as these were not shown on television was because of how they make people feel, not because they were obscure or because TV producers didn't have access to them. The images to the right show the effects of war in its bloodiest and heart-wrenching form. These pictures should make thinking people question war and question the politics that lead to armed conflict. To many people, these hurtful images will make them feel bad. These pictures are hard to look at and bring up hard questions.

Television is a simplistic medium. Television is not meant to bring up hard questions or make someone feel bad. If people feel bad while watching TV, they'll turn off the set. Producers of war coverage don't want the TV sets off -- they want them on! The only way to keep people watching is to make people feel good about war.

Television is pretty ridiculous in all it's incarnations. But at least it keeps folk from seeing how badly they are being bled to death by their corporate paymasters. Nice trick huh?

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Atman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-23-07 06:10 PM
Response to Reply #14
16. You described our entire capitalist sytem, NOT television.
Magazines are about ad sales (read: ratings). Newspapers are about ad sales (read: ratings). We've even made the viability of our subways about ad sales. Those posters on the walls subsidize the trains, or else you wouldn't be able to afford a subway ride. Every argument you made against television can also be applied to every other media in our culture, from iTunes to the New York Times...providing content which is appealing enough for the reader to want to pay for it. That is simply "capitalism," not television. Now, if you want to argue the brain rotting effects of capitalism, bring it on! But I'm not buying tv as the be-all end-all brain rotter. You might as well say we should all just be ignorant cave dwellers only concerned with gathering food and keeping the fire lit, otherwise we're not "pure."

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Jcrowley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-23-07 07:42 PM
Response to Reply #16
21. It's all connected
The Lottery, with its weekly pay-out of enormous prizes, was the one public event to which the proles paid serious attention. It was probable that there were some millions of proles for whom the Lottery was the principal if not the only reason for remaining alive. It was their delight, their folly, their anodyne, their intellectual stimulant. Where the Lottery was concerned, even people who could barely read and write seemed capable of intricate calculations and staggering feats of memory.
George Orwell, 1984


In the PLUG-IN DRUG, Marie Winn says that television is an addictive drug: "When we think about addiction to drugs or alcohol we frequently focus on negative aspects, ignoring the pleasures that accompany drinking or drug-taking. And yet the essence of any serious addiction is a pursuit of pleasure, a search for a 'high' that normal life does not supply. It is only the inability to function without the addictive substance that is dismaying, the dependence of the organism upon a certain experience and an increasing inability to function normally without it. Thus people will take two or three drinks at the end of the day not merely for the pleasure drinking provides, but also because they 'don't feel normal' without them.

"Real addicts do not merely pursue a pleasurable experience one time in order to function normally. They need to repeat it again and again. Something about that particular experience makes life without it less than complete. Other potentially pleasurable experiences are no longer possible, for under the spell of the addictive experience, their lives are peculiarly distorted. The addict craves an experience and yet is never really satisfied. The organism may be temporarily sated, but soon it begins to crave again.

"Finally, a serious addiction is distinguished from a harmless pursuit of pleasure by its distinctly destructive elements. Heroin addicts, for instance, lead a damaged life: their increasing need for heroin in increasing doses prevents them from working, from maintaining relationships, from developing in human ways. Similarly alcoholics' lives are narrowed and dehumanized by their dependence on alcohol.

"Let us consider television viewing in the light of the conditions that define serious addictions.

"Not unlike drugs or alcohol, the television experience allows the participant to blot out the real world and enter into a pleasurable and passive mental state. The worries and anxieties of reality are as effectively deferred by becoming absorbed in a television program as by going on a 'trip' induced by drugs or alcohol. And just as alcoholics are only vaguely aware of their addiction, feeling that they control their drinking more than they really do ('I can cut it out any time I wantI just like to have three of four drinks before dinner'), people similarly overestimate their control over television watching. Even as they put off other activities to spend hour after hour watching television, they feel they could easily resume living in a different, less passive style. But somehow or other, while the television set is present in their homes, the click doesn't sound. With television pleasures available, those other experiences seem less attractive, more difficult somehow.
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Jcrowley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-23-07 07:55 PM
Response to Reply #16
22. Television and the Preparation of the Mind for Learning
Healy helped plan the conference, entitled "Television and the Preparation of the Mind for Learning: Critical Questions on the Effects of TV on the Developing Brains of Young Children."

The conference was sponsored by the Division of Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Jane Holmes Bernstein, a researcher at Boston's Children's Hospital, added that 20 percent of the nation's students have "disorders of learning and thinking . . . but consume more than 20 percent of school budgets" in remedial training.

The neuropsychology specialist noted the difficulty of studying how TV affects a complex system such as the rapidly developing brain interacting with the environment. "TV is embedded in a socio-cultural matrix. It may simply be filling a gap. Other cultural factors may be limiting conversation, therefore leading to diminished linguistic skills," Bernstein said.

The most dramatic research presented was a set of experiments on the developing brains of young rats by noted UC-Berkeley brain scientist Marian Cleeves Diamond. She and her colleagues compared the growth of brain tissue in rat pups in "enriched" environments with those in "impoverished" environments.


The making of a media literate mind: marketing threatens your children's psychological integrity. The best protection? Education.

From: Mothering | Date: 11/1/2004 | Author: Williams, Rob

We live in the most media-saturated society in the history of the world. Americans spend between 10 and 12 hours a day consuming media through ever-more sophisticated technological delivery systems, including (for the average household) three televisions and radios, two VCRS and CD players, one computer, one video game player, and a bewildering variety of newspapers, comic books, magazines, books, and other print media. (1)

As we enter the 21st century, this situation might seem to call for celebration--more media theoretically means more voices, more diversity, more channels for information, entertainment, and education. A closer look, however, reveals a more disturbing reality. Most of the stories told in our media culture--by some estimates, as much as 90 percent of our media content--are ultimately owned by a handful of giant transnational corporations, including Time Warner, News Corp., Disney, Viacom, Vivendi, and Sony. (2)

Veteran media critic George Gerbner explains that whoever is telling the stories within a culture has enormous power to shape how people think, act, and buy. For the first time in human history, Gerbner notes, most of the stories about people, life, and values are told not by parents, schools, churches, and others in the community who have something to tell, but by a group of distant conglomerates that have little to tell and everything to sell. (3)

As a result, our 21st-century world has ceded much of the cultural storytelling process to a small number of large media corporations whose primary concern is not our society's health or our children's well-being, but to maximize profits. The tools of their trade are media messages and content embedded within the worlds of the Internet, video games, television, and other media technologies. These corporations devote their energies to expensive efforts designed to mold our young people, from as early an age as possible, into brand-loyal consumers of corporately produced lifestyles, goods, and behaviors.
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Atman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-23-07 05:25 PM
Response to Original message
2. That's a grossly generalized crock
Edited on Fri Feb-23-07 05:29 PM by Atman
I'm 48 in April. I watch television, and except for a brief two-year period during which we had a tv used only for watching videos (no cable or antenna), I have always watched tv. And I'm in the best shape of my life, and have NO cholesterol, diabetes or blood pressure issues. None. I take no meds for anything, except supplements (vitamins and glucosomine/msm). I snowboard two or three days a week in the winter and play in a beach volleyball league in the summer

The article named a lot of maladies which may or may not occur in their study group anyway. I don't see cause and effect, just people with maladies who also watch television. Television, in and of itself, is not a bad thing, and it has opened up the world for many people. If Enormous Norma didn't have teevee, do you really think that she'd instead be out jogging? Nope. She'd be on the computer or sitting in front of the slots at the casino. Certain personality types are drawn toward certain activities/inactivities. There are 300,000,000 people in the United States alone. No matter how much some wish to homogenize us and make everybody a perfect specimen, it ain't gonna happen. Television has its faults, but pointing to it with questionable claims of bringing on diabetes, abnormal glucose development, autism, cholesterol...come on. It sounds like reverse snake oil to me, just looking for the perfect one-size-fits-all scapegoat for everything. I call bullshit.

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Jcrowley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-23-07 05:35 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. Television warps the mind
In the book Amusing Ourselves to Death, New York University Professor Neil Postman explains how television has changed modern imagery: "It is implausible to imagine that anyone like our 27th President, the multi-chinned, three-hundred pound William Howard Taft, could be put forward as a presidential candidate in today's world. The shape of a man's body is largely irrelevant to the shape of his ideas when he is addressing a public in writing or on the radio . . . but it is quite relevant on television. The grossness of a three-hundred-pound image, even a talking one, would easily overwhelm any logical or spiritual subtleties conveyed by speech."

Postman goes on to explain that "on television, discourse is conducted largely through visual imagery, which is to say that television gives us a conversation in images, not words . . . You cannot do political philosophy on television. Its form works against the content."

After watching hours and hours and hours of television imagery, those "Beautiful People" will become burned into your mind. The handsome, pretty, skinny and witty characters on the show "Friends" are more famous than writers, poets, politicians and more important than teachers, policemen, or firemen. The characters on "Friends" or "Ally McBeal" live the lives we all should live -- and they don't even have to work that hard.

The Beautiful People Syndrome is attacking the psyche of television-addicted America. For a man, if you are not 6'1'', handsome and wealthy you are not ideal. Any woman who isn't bone-thin with a large chest certainly is below the standard. Television is warping the American mind. Unfortunately, the Americanization of the rest of the world may contribute to mind-warping worldwide. Everyone wants to be one of the beautiful television people.

The number of television sets in U.S. households in 2001: 248 million
The percentage of households with at least one TV in 2001: 98.2%
The average number of TVs per home in 2001: 2.4
The projected number of hours that adults (age 18 and older) will watch television in 2004: 1,669 (This is the equivalent of about 70 days.)
The percentage of people age 18 and over who said they watched television in the spring of 2002: 94.3%
Older Americans (age 65 and over) were more likely to be glued to the tube (97 percent) than any other age group.
The projected spending per person for cable and satellite TV in 2004: $255.18
The estimated average monthly rate for cable TV in 2002: $34.71
The number of stores that primarily sold televisions and other electronic equipment in 2001: 21,724
The annual payroll for the 245,000 employees of 6,692 cable TV networks and program distribution firms in the United States in 2001: $11.7 billion
The number of television broadcasting networks and stations in the United States in 2001: 1,937
-- Source: United States Census Bureau, March 2004
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Atman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-23-07 05:43 PM
Response to Reply #4
8. It's an author's thesis, and I don't agree with it.
But I do appreciate you're bringing to the fore for discussion. It has always been a compelling topic for me.

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PLF Donating Member (414 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-23-07 05:41 PM
Response to Reply #2
6. The article did not claim tv is the exclusive cause of these maladies.
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Atman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-23-07 05:48 PM
Response to Reply #6
10. Nor did my post say it was the "exclusive" cause of these maladies.
I never used "exclusive" either. I just discounted the whole bullshit premise.

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PLF Donating Member (414 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-23-07 06:03 PM
Response to Reply #10
15. I'm seeing quite a bit of literature out there about this subject.

Painting quite a negative picture of television and it's effects on people.
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OPERATIONMINDCRIME Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-23-07 05:38 PM
Response to Original message
5. What A Crock Of Shit. Junk Science At It's Grandest. n/t
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Jcrowley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-23-07 05:50 PM
Response to Reply #5
12. Here's an interesting article
The power of a panoptic architecture comes from techniques that classify,
segment, and isolate the population. In Bentham's Panopticon, the inmates,
unable to communicate with one another, would be reduced to the status of
"solitary sequestered individuals ... Indulged with perfect liberty within
the space allotted to him, in what worse way could he vent his rage, than
by beating his head against the walls?" < J. Bentham, 1791 >

This 200 year old passage chillingly foreshadows the much-vaunted "consumer
choice" of modern life. As public spaces erode and fragment, individuals
are isolated inside shrinking private spaces - corporate-designed
technological enclosures such as the automobile and the "home entertainment
center". While mentally confined within these cells, individuals are
"indulged with perfect liberty" to choose among the advertised corporate
products. Consumers are offered images of freedom and community, but
never the real thing.

Millions of people are already prisoners of television technology. Although
they are allowed to leave their living rooms on "work furloughs," they have
given up control of their dreams and their time to the rhythms and dictates
of institutional marketing strategies. But even television technology is
primitive compared with what's coming. Designed to channel the flows of
data and socio-economic power, the panoptic project is a transnational
effort to overlay Earth with a computerized surveillance grid.

So far, there has been little criticism of plans to crisscross North America
with the fiber-optic pathways that are supposed to vault us into the next
century. The "digital convergence" of TV with telecommunications and
computer technology is mostly seen as inherently good - a time-saver, a
life-enhancer, a better entertainer. Techno-makers tout its merits and
spend billions to push their products. But its possible downsides are
ignored. The road to freedom via a two-way Information Highway may turn
into a one-way Surveillance Street, used to condition people's thoughts
and control their behavior.

And another:
For example, December 2003 topics on CBS's 60 Minutes and 60 Minutes II included interviews with Sean Penn (actor), Judge Judy Scheindlin (TV judge), Michael Jackson (singer) and a profile of Saddam Hussein. A month earlier, 60 Minutes produced an interview with Mary J. Blige (singer) and investigative reports Porn in the U.S.A. and Reviving The Dead. Special reports on the NBC program Dateline in June 2004 include The last days of Jesus; Affirmative action: A question of fairness; Dirty Restaurants? Hidden camera investigation: Top 10 chains; and At home with Ben and Jen: Revisit them when they were still Bennifer. This is in addition to interviews with Michael Jackson (again) and Hugh Jackman (actor). These news magazines also include "coverage of the Iraq war," but it's just coverage not investigations.

None of this comes close to unseating the status of Woodward and Bernstein's Watergate. (The only notable exception being 60 Minutes II showing the Iraqi prison abuse pictures, which was really a story uncovered by New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh.)

Which brings up the topic of The Breasts of Britney Spears' versus The Military Industrial Complex. Television can easily show the trials and tribulations of Britney and her breasts -- but can it show a serious and complicated issue? The emergence of the military industrial complex within the United States should be a topic of hot discussion on TV news. With ongoing military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and American troops deployed in 135 countries around the world, military preparedness and armaments should be on TV non-stop. It isn't. Why? According to the PEJ report, government stories account for at least one-third of all news stories on network and cable news. Shouldn't the United States' unparalleled military buildup be a top story?

The problem with a TV news story about the military industrial complex is that it can be . . . well . . . complex. It also brings up serious issues. Television is not a serious or complex medium.

Check it out:

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symbolman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-23-07 05:42 PM
Response to Original message
7. Believe it or not
I find television to be helpful when I think. Always have. Used to do my homework in front of the tv as a kid, and I keep it on a lot, mostly with the sound down when I'm working, writing my book and being on the DU, creating new flash work, etc.

To me, staring at the tv helps me reach those layers of the brain that do the deepest thinking. It gets tuned out but stimulates me at the same time, a dream state where I come up with creative solutions.

I've heard of people that used to tune their tvs between stations and sleep or think to the White Noise.

To me, it's ALL White Noise, even in Color and HD :)

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fujiyama Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-23-07 06:37 PM
Response to Original message
17. There's a lot of crap on TV, no doubt.
Edited on Fri Feb-23-07 06:39 PM by fujiyama
Fox News is definitely garbage. Propaganda at its finest. Other cable news stations aren't much better. A lot of the TV sitcoms are just stale at this point.

But there is some quality programming like say on public television. And personally I watch a few shows on TV. I find them entertaining and relaxing after a day of work. I find Stewart and Colbert to be brilliant. The quality of high definition is stunning on my big screen. But I also limit my viewing to no more than 2 hours or so every night.

There's simply no evidence whatsoever that TV causes Alzheimer's. That sounds like complete utter BS.

Like anything, TV is best viewed in moderation. If you continuously watch it for several hours straight every day, then it's an incredibly waste of time - and it will lead to a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, higher blood pressure, and a whole host of other health problems.

TV is just another piece of electronic equipment and what's fed through it is like any other media. It can be used to inform and enlighten the mind - or corrupt it. It's up to people how they use it.

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stillcool Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-23-07 06:38 PM
Response to Original message
18. The medium is great...
the content is toxic.
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Deja Q Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-23-07 06:40 PM
Response to Original message
19. But most television is made as a dumbing down medium to sell sponsored garbage
Anything deemed "cerebral" is usually spat on, by networks and masses alike.

I assume the article speaks of American television only? :evilgrin:
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Swamp Rat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-23-07 06:45 PM
Response to Original message
20. obey ... watch tv
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