W a l t e r z A l t e r
p o r t f o l i o
a r t i c l e s
The TV catechism
Beef Magazine 1985
Walter Alter, the high priest of information throughput density', is a Bay Area multimedia artist, in it for the fun.
What is television?
Television is the falsification of reality.
Can television hurt me?
Only if you think of it as reality.
Shall I get rid of my television?
If you see ignorance as a positive human characteristic, then yes, get rid of your television.
If television presents what is false, how can its absence lead to ignorance?
There is much that is false in the world. Television informs us as to the nature of falsity. It also allows us to gauge the quantity of falsity that is being released for consumption, as well as the correlation between what is being released and world events.
I read an article that said too much television will turn my neurons into Elmer's Glue, is this true?
No. there is no such thing as too much television.
Then why all the warnings about the sociopathic consequences of television viewing?
The warnings are all false. No one doubts the mindless banality of current programming. Many constituencies are represented by the various genre of programming. Organized crime likes the game shows. The feudal oligarchs like the soap operas. The behavior modifiers like the sitcoms, gag line laughter is the greatest impediment to cognition known to man. The authoritarians like the us vs. them crime busters. The Brahmins of public opinion like the talk shows. The critics of television programming have all made the classic error of condemnation as a result of their dumb preoccupation with censure and banishment as though the presence of an irritant in every case leads to death rather than more knowledge.
Again, I agree that the substance of everything on television is: a) hypnotic; b) illiterate: c) corrupt. But this brain injuring aspect operates and obtains only within the paradigm of a very special case. That case is that we simply have not been tutored to watch television in a way that will render it indispensable to the creation of human genius. I can see no social institution justifiably serving any other basic aim than the creation of human genius. Stupid people are a damned hazard to life, so let's get smart and figure out some way we can flip this turtle on its back. We either use television intelligently, or we get cast into those days of simple frolic known as the 13th century, when a toothache could kill you and nobody voted.
How can we escape from television's special case application?
Two methods, one easy, the other hard but more fun. In order to fall for a falsification of reality and believe in it. we must employ those parts of our psychic structure rooted in infancy and childhood, those parts unable to fill in the blank exterior to our perceptions. As we grew, our minds became more able to compare memory and experience with a situation in order to project a mental consruct of the result of action. We learned how to think before we acted. Well, the masters of our disasters don't want us to think, so they make it easy for us to sleep walk by appearing to gratify instinctive needs through substitutes and symbols. From the adman to the anchorman, our needs are played upon like a Stradivarius. The first method for turning the trick upon television is to watch it in an alert state of mind, watching for interplays of subtlety and nuance. Results will be immediate. For example, you will soon see how commercials are sequentially arranged to play upon one another or programming immediately preceding or subsequent. You will see how game show contestants either comply with hidden behavior agendas or get the real hard questions. You will begin to perceive a complex interplay of editoriaiizations and studied chess moves. The more you look, the more you will see and the greater will be your sense of power over the manipulators of our passions. This exercise will spill over into your real life.
You mentioned two methods of escape, what is the second one?
The second method really turns television into a boomerang of epic proportions. It is a discovery that had to wait for a particular phenomenon to occur, a phenomenon that may even take on the dimension of a postulate for socio-economic behavior. It is time for sociologists to examine human behavior in the light of...SURPLUS. History is the history of conflict predicated upon scarcity, usually of raw materials for manufacture. Even in ancient times. science, technology and the potential for equitable distribution of wealth therein derived, has for the first time provided us with the economics of SURPLUS. SURPLUS does funny things to all the old equations. A surplus of television sets, or TV's, for example, will allow the average citizen at little cost to become a genius.
The entire television media combine is built upon program content. Even if we were to watch television using method 1 exclusively, the boys from network would eventually get slicker at making the false look real. Method 2 completely outflanks the content of the medium immediately and eternally, reducing it to the status of a tool for exercise. Reality is once again within the grasp of the beholder and subject to control. If you watch "Days Of Our Lives" on one TV and "The Young and The Restless" on another TV, something astounding occurs. Television no longer acts upon you. you act upon it.
"Wild Kingdom" and "Meet The Press." "Miami Vice" and "SCTV," any combo that's on is going to enable you to acquire a very powerful ability to perceive, assimilate and evaluate simultaneous events of a complex, cognitive nature.
I don't know about you. but for me it looks like the future is going to arrive whether I like it or not. Experience has shown that there is something inevitable about the next moment. In social terms, this means that civilization will probably be bringing us a future less clouded by mushrooms than by doubt. Yes kids, sorry for the disappointment, but it looks like no red alert, no ground zero, no Armageddon, eating wild berries, 9 arm mutants or Mad Max dune buggies patrolling for petroleum. We ain't going to be able to solve our problems that easy. We're going to have to stretch our brains wide enough to embrace a planet where the last impediments to rational action based upon full knowledge have been removed. If you don't get complex, believe me, your local tyrant will.