I have suggested on occasion, sometimes generally sometimes pointedly, that the entertainment industry has been one of the more pernicious influences on the development of such things as intelligence and character that have been seen of late. It’s influence is felt everywhere and since we know that animals, including the human animal, learn from imitation it follows that the ubiquitous television and the social media (of late, especially) have had a tremendous effect on the development of young minds and hearts.

Robert Hutchins once pointed out that the invention of  television held out the greatest of possibilities for humankind. It could be an educational tool like none other and could bring about the elevation of minds and the enlargement of experience among all those touched by it. But we know that has not happened. Not only does public television — which was the last bastion of hope — struggle against the tide of political interests that lie elsewhere, but even when its programs are seemingly beyond criticism they still raise deep questions about their effect on young minds. I speak of such programs as “Sesame Street,” which has always been held up as a paradigm of the best that can be hoped for in television programming. And yet, television is a passive media and does not involve the viewer fully, and this applies to children’s programs on P.B.S.. Furthermore, such programs as “Sesame Street” — as good as they are in many respects — lead the young to expect to be entertained by those who would be their teachers later on. I know this from first hand experience, but it is fairly easy to deduce. Given the fact that the young spend hours each day in front of the television waiting to be entertained, it follows that when in a classroom they will expect the same stimulation. Again, television is essentially a passive media and that’s the key. It does not involve the give-and-take that is required for real learning to take place.

I speak in general terms about television as the main culprit in the drama I am attempting to expose, but in addition to the programming itself, which is beyond banal, there are the dreaded effects of commercials that are designed to capture and hold the minds of the viewers and lead them to buy items they certainly do not need and probably do not want. But one cannot deny the pernicious effects of the frantic series of pictures drummed into the heads of passive viewers hour after hour that present him of her with examples of human behavior that are anything but exemplary. I speak of the commercials, especially, that advertise everything from feminine hygiene products to pills to cure erectile disfunction, and God only knows how many drugs designed to make our lives easier and more pleasant. But much of what I say can be placed at the feet of the programming itself which presents innumerable examples of what was once regarded as deplorable behavior — such things as chronic lying, for example, not to mention the common practice of shouting and interrupting, and the repeated message that YOU are the only thing that matters and violence is the way to solve conflict.

There has been much attention drawn to social media lately, and with good reason. But it simply exacerbates the problem I allude to, since it reinforces the message that the self is paramount and others are there to be used and discarded. Many young people admit that in addition to being addicted to social media, they are driven to present themselves to those who read and follow in such a way that they will be “liked.” It’s not a question of whether or  not a person is a good person, a virtuous person as once was, but if one is well liked. How many followers do we have? Has my latest post been “liked”? How can I make sure that I never hear again from that fellow who just criticized my latest post?

I carp, of course, and grind a favorite axe, one that many  would prefer to ignore or even deny altogether. But we might do well to think about the impact of the entertainment media and the effects it has had on generations of people with diminished attention spans and lowered intelligence who seem to be withdrawing further and further into themselves and less and less inclined to become involved in the world around them except in so far as it affects them directly. It is not something that is likely to change — and certainly not because of this blog post. But it is a phenomenon that deserves serious attention if we are to better understand the current cultural malaise, the growing incidences of violence, and the widespread apathy among growing numbers of people who could not care less about the world around them.


43 thoughts on “Entertainment?

  1. Well said. And it doesn’t help that the parents of these young people set such a poor example. I shudder when I’m in the park and see 6 and 7-year olds pushing buttons on their “smart” phones, right next to benign parents doing the same thing.

  2. Hugh, it was once said the simplest of toys are the most educational as they require the imagination. Entertainment that makes us think less numbs us as you have noted. Reading is becoming a lost art to way to many. And, writing has become even more scarce. Keith

  3. Hugh – We don’t have television at home, and love the choice it gives us in picking our entertainment. But we just got back from a short trip, and watched some TV in the hotel room. So much time is taken watching things that you have no choice over. At home, I love the fact that I can read what I want, see what I want and don’t have to wait through advertisers’ messages. Susan

  4. Dear Hugh,

    You do present a great point. Whenever I visit my son and family, they do not have TV for the reasons you mentioned. My granddaughter does not get to spend hours watching TV. But as a 4 year old she was recently tested by her school where she performed at a much higher grade level. Next year instead of being in a pre-K program she will be staring Kindergarten even though she doesn’t turn 5 until the end of Jan 2019. Why? When she is home, she is playing creatively, drawing, reading etc.

    You are so right as I find that folks being addicted to the TV as well as other gadgets keep folks from becoming involved in the outside world.

    Hugs, Gronda

  5. As always, my friend, you are spot-on! I know far too many people whose day-to-day lives revolve around Facebook, or whose raison d’être is the latest episode of whatever television series is currently trending. It has led to diminished capability of people to carry on intelligent conversations, and I shudder to think what the world will look like in another 50 years if this trend continues. We disconnected our satellite two years ago, for we only have the television on a max of 2-3 hours per week, and some weeks it isn’t turned on at all. Question for you … do you see this trend ever turning around, or is it the destiny of the human race to simply turn into vegetables? This is excellent food for thought, and I shall re-blog, with your implied permission. Thank you!

    • For those who weren’t around in the 60s, and even for those who were but never heard of Harlan Ellison, he was a Science Fiction author turned television critic. He invented the phrase Boob Tube to describe what television was doing to us then, and Hugh, your words could have come right out of his monthly diatribes.He predicted what television and the entertainment industry in general would become… if this were allowed to continue. Well, it was allowed to continue, and now the world is full of boobs, and not the mammary gland kind. We call ourselves citizens of first world nations, but truly we are lower than those in the third world. We have all these opportunities around us to become amazing people, but instead here we are fighting to maintain what can still be saved from Trump’s stupidity. Education, which you kind of eluded to, is no longer in the business of creating self-thinkers, but even more so what students were rebelling against in the 60s and 70s: being turned into cogs in the wheels of an economy built on greed.
      Meanwhile, the boobs keep sucking at the teat of television. Life is easy when you never have to think for yourself. Until you do…

      • As one who taught college students for 37 years I must confess I never got the impression they were “rebelling” against much of anything. For the most part they wanted a good job after graduation and were, on the whole, apathetic and ill-informed about current affairs. The “millenials” have a reputation (as revealed in the studies) for being distanced from the everyday world.

      • Hey Hugh, not sure what year you started to teach at the University level, but I hear you taught philosophy. I drove my Philo prof crazy asking him why and wherefore. But that was in Canada. I cannot speak for students in other education systems. Maybe they rebelled just for the fun of it, I don’t know. But we wanted relevance to life, not to making money. Education was supposed to be something for us to use, not something for someone to use us. But those who were not there don’t seem to understand what we were trying for.

      • I would have welcomed you and your fellow students into my classes. There were always a few bright lights, but most of the bulbs had burned out!

      • I am quite surprised that you found “burned out bulbs” in your philosophy classes, unless they thought they were easy grades. (I very much doubt you gave away A’s very easily.) I’m sure Basket Weaving would have been easier. But depending on what kind of philosophy you taught and who you used as your prime philosophers I would probably have rattled your cages too…

      • Philosophy was a required course in the General Studies core. Students who elected to take philosophy were usually a treat to work with!

      • Hi everyone,

        In a sense, TVs have become booby traps, especially for those who are unweary. Many, if not all of such wretched behaviours that we find to be deplorable have been incessantly repeated and normalized by the current US presidency. In addition, the obesity epidemic has been spread by TV ads, whilst the primetime TV has been filled by an unending series of consumerist ethos, pop culture and tabloid mentality in the unrelenting cult of celebrity and hero-worship saturating the mass media and contemporary living, all of which are also simultaneously steeped in the insidious Authority Bias and Author Bias, as analysed in great detail at soundeagle.wordpress.com/2017/10/18/the-quotation-fallacy/#Authority_Author_Bias

        There is indeed clear and present danger in our TV sets!

  6. Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
    Our friend Hugh, aka the Professor, is a deep thinker, as one would expect of a former professor of philosophy. Today (actually a few days ago) Hugh delves into the effects on society, on humanity, of television and other electronic media. It is something we often don’t think much about, but … we need to … we really need to. Please take a few minutes to read Hugh’s post, for it is, as always, food for thought. Thank you, Hugh, for both this post and permission to share it!

  7. Well said, and said often by so many people. But you’re right. People don’t want to hear it because they’re caught up in their own fantasy world.

  8. Good article, Hugh… but (there’s usually a “but” with me) what is society? What is civilization? A matter of consensus and consensus is pushed by power; by those in power and those who know how to manipulate power. As an intelligent, sentient and self aware being I am a creature endowed with a mind, therefore a choice. It’s a funny thing that we expect majority rule when we trudge dutifully to the polls, but react negatively to the outworking of societal consensus which is the real definition of free vote. We don’t like it (or some anyway) when consensus drags “our” pet society down a path we find abhorrent or repugnant, by our personal sense of morality or philosophy. Society is a consensual beast that imposes itself upon individuals and forces them into the sheeple mindset so they will be good slaves, good believers, good consumers and generally trusted to make the “right” choices according to the consensus of the moment. From what I see, society has entered into a choice of path that is going to bring about the downfall of civilization as we’ve known it since… well let’s say the fall of the Roman Empire. We’ve been forcefully imposing our white supremacist, Christian, capitalist and totalitarian ways upon the whole world, in the name of God and Mammon and proud we’ve been to be part of one or the other of the conquering Western empires. We’ve imposed our ways upon people who had no chance to counter us and remade the world according to the god of Christianity, Money and the Military Industrial Complex. So quite naturally the perversions; the violence; the oppression, the greed and avarice that are the “virtues” of our now global civilization are bound to infect everything, and they are. I say good riddance. Let it all go to hell where it belongs and in some few hundred years, it will turn again. By then, perhaps, Earthians will have lost their murderous hubris; learned some humility and realized that you live with nature, not against it.

    • There’s a lot here to respond to, but I would agree with you. Ortega said that civilization is above all else the “will to live in common.” There is no doubt in my mind but that we have, by and large, lost that will. I do believe our civilization is coming to an end and will be replaced by another. We have entered what I have called the age of a new barbarism. It will be interesting to see what comes out in the end. Thanks for the good comment!

    • Hi Sha’Tara,

      I really enjoy reading your comment here. Some doubt that few hundred years or few thousand years would make any difference.

      99% of all species that ever appear on Earth are already extinct since life began.

      The average lifespan of a species is one million years. The human species (counting the early hominids) has lasted six million years. Extinction is the rule; survival is the exception.

      Furthermore, we are now well on the way to the sixth mass extinction on Earth, not to mention using up the Earth’s resources at the rate of 1.5 Earth.

      • Quote: “The average lifespan of a species is one million years. The human species (counting the early hominids) has lasted six million years. Extinction is the rule; survival is the exception.”

        I think you may have defeated your argument here. If the average is a million years and Earthians have already survived six million years, then obviously they have something going for them not available to other species.  I am not informed or educated enough to enter into this honestly but I base my understanding of man’s future on private “inside” information. That information tells me that Hugh is correct: we are heading into a new form of barbarism that is destroying the current civilization. I think that archaeology shows there have been many previous civilizations of man, so the loss of this one does not mean the loss of mankind as a species. We have experienced light to severe losses and new gains over the millennia, no reason why we can’t survive this decline and fall. I’m just “hoping” that what survives will have developed a new awareness on how to interact with one-another humanely, and how to live in, and with, a finite environment. I am “hoping” that the downfall will see the end of (capitalized) Religion, top-down Autocratic Government and Capitalism. If these three monstrosities do not perish and disappear from man’s mind we will simply reconstruct the current madness given time and opportunity.

      • Hi Sha’Tara,

        I essentially agree with all of you, and just added more to your comments. You are welcome to read my the other two or three comments that I left on this post.

        Whether our species has persisted one, six or sixty millions years would be rather immaterial, as the global statistics do not auger well for humanity, which is now in such great number that anthropogenic forces are highly destructive, essentially entering the sixth great extinction of the Earth. The eventual outcome would far exceed any previous downfalls of human civilizations, including that of the Roman empire. Unfortunately, I do not have the time to elaborate any further.

        There will be even more new and pressing challenges facing modern human beings. Some of the projected statistics and global predictions are so dire that certain folks even liken the human species as cancer cells over-multiplying and wrecking havocs in the planetary Petri dish called Earth. The very next post published on my website will be very long and deal with some of these global issues and relating them back to human nature and its characteristics.

        Happy May to you!

      • Quote: “we the modern humans belong to Homo sapiens, the origin of which is now considered to have occurred more than 300 thousand years ago, based on recent fossil discoveries in Morocco.” Which brings us in line with the earlier calculations made by Zecharia Sitchin who claimed Home Sapiens was cloned by the Anunnaki at about that same time.

      • Sha’Tara: Precisely. I do not predict the demise of the human race. I predict the rise of a new barbarism and the end of what we have called “civilization.” There are signs all around us that this is taking place. But it is not a wild surmise that human beings are also on the brink of self-destruction as a race — and of all other living things on earth. We have shown astonishing blindness to the repercussions of our own actions and inventions and in the process developed weapons that would bring about such a thing — and history shows that humans have little common sense.

      • A philosopher, seems to me, would be the person who keeps an open mind about all things while carefully observing trends and developing a sense of “where it is all going” without turning it into a prophetic message. If you are following a car on the road and you notice the rear passenger tire is low, you would deduct that it has a slow leak and if possible you would make the driver aware of the condition. Whether the driver listens… or fails to listen… that is not the observer’s problem. It is a truism that the future is open to endless possibilities but some possibilities appear more possible than others. Personally (relying somewhat on my own private and esoteric bit of information) I cannot see the human race destroying itself or its world in toto. If weapons of mass destruction are unleashed, mutants will survive. If we continue to rape and pillage and make non-total warfare on each other, the age of barbarism will develop exponentially until the tipping point when our accumulated knowledge and most of our technology will simply vanish. One thing we can be sure of, we are currently relying on an unsustainable system and doing little to remedy that situation. Believe all things, believe in nothing… When in doubt, trust your own common sense.

  9. This a provoking and well reasoned warning.
    Reminds me of the message in Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’

  10. Pingback: Entertainment? | hughcurtler – SEO

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