February 6, 2003
TV DimensionI watch TV news so rarely now that when I see it in an airport or a bar I feel like I am being instantly transported into the movie "1984" with TV screens barking government propaganda at you everywhere you go.
About 4 o'clock today I saw CNN in a bar. The sound was muted and the subtitles were splashing across the screen with all their misspellings and it was surreal. There's an advantage to watching television with the sound off. As William Burroughs used to say, seeing it without the sound gives you a sense of detachment and objectivity that you don't get when the sound is on. You can see how they are manipulating you. McLuhan pointed out, and Stevie Wonder confirmed, that most of what you see on television is determined by what you hear, because TV is visually a low-definition medium. With the soundtrack turned off, you can maintain more of your mental sovereignty.
Put any soundtrack to the picture, Burroughs said, and it will seem to go with it. Amazing how that somehow seems to be true in practice. Like hip hop with its post-modernist canvas that welcomes anything as an element, if you put two disparate elements together in the video medium, they will collide and a synthesis will emerge.
So watching television with the sound off dilutes the effect, gives you more distance from it. But even with that buffer, the effect of watching it for a few seconds for me today was to cause me to collapse into a state of futility, depression, demoralization. There isn't a damn soul in the world who agrees with you. It's uncanny the power that box has. In a few seconds it has reduced me to believing that I must be insane. That the whole world agrees but me on whatever the Big Media is pushing this week.
For a long time now what they are pushing is war against Iraq and the incessant pounding of this message will get to you no matter where you go or how you try to avoid it. TVs are virtually everywhere. There are few TV-free zones left. I've even seen TVs blaring in bookstores. It will get to you and when it does it will wear you down. It is the local version of "shock and awe." It's called "dazed."
Today medialand was all about Colin Powell's speech to the UN. If you watched this broadcast you would have to be convinced that Powell's speech totally convinced everyone that the total destruction of Iraq could not be achieved quickly enough, time is of the essence, the country is still somewhat intact and we can't allow that. It is hurting our oil industry every day to see those oil fields just sitting there when they could be OURS!
They marched on one Senator after another to describe how they agreed with the president even more than the president and there couldn't be anyone left who would possibly have the slightest reservation about getting that "Shock and Awe" bombing campaign going as quickly as possible. After all, SADDAM HUSSEIN HAS COMMITTED A MATERIAL BREACH OF THE UN RESOLUTIONS! whatever the hell that means, and Powell was not too clear about that but he sure barked out that mantra about "weapons of mass destruction" enough to cause seizures in the sensitive.
These are tricks of logic, they have virtually no existence in reality, bear no relationship to what is happening in the real world. There is a crime syndicate in control of Washington and they are running their corrupt little free-for-all with all their bloodthirsty friends in the corporate elite. They'll say anything. It doesn't matter. Soon they will carry out one of the most brutal exercises in mass murder ever. And none of what they are saying will have anything to do with it. It certainly will not justify even a small fraction of the bloodshed that the Pentagon is preparing to incite.
Americans may sleep through it, but they are about to go through perhaps the greatest tragedy in America's short history. The emergence on the world stage of America as truly and unequivocably a cruel tyrant is not a good turn for Americans.