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More Dirt on the Demon Box: TV Science

2007-01-03 10:32:00

Idiot Box Neurology

Mack White sums things up rather perfectly, so I'll just quote him:

Experiments conducted by researcher Herbert Krugman reveal that, when a person watches television, brain activity switches from the left to the right hemisphere. The left hemisphere is the seat of logical thought. Here, information is broken down into its component parts and critically analyzed. The right brain, however, treats incoming data uncritically, processing information in wholes, leading to emotional, rather than logical, responses. The shift from left to right brain activity also causes the release of endorphins, the body's own natural opiates--thus, it is possible to become physically addicted to watching television, a hypothesis borne out by numerous studies which have shown that very few people are able to kick the television habit. This numbing of the brain's cognitive function is compounded by another shift which occurs in the brain when we watch television. Activity in the higher brain regions (such as the neo-cortex) is diminished, while activity in the lower brain regions (such as the limbic system) increases. The latter, commonly referred to as the reptile brain, is associated with more primitive mental functions, such as the "fight or flight" response. The reptile brain is unable to distinguish between reality and the simulated reality of television. To the reptile brain, if it looks real, it is real. Thus, though we know on a conscious level it is "only a film," on a conscious level we do not--the heart beats faster, for instance, while we watch a suspenseful scene. Similarly, we know the commercial is trying to manipulate us, but on an unconscious level the commercial nonetheless succeeds in, say, making us feel inadequate until we buy whatever thing is being advertised--and the effect is all the more powerful because it is unconscious, operating on the deepest level of human response. The reptile brain makes it possible for us to survive as biological beings, but it also leaves us vulnerable to the manipulations of television programmers.

As a side note, that's twice I've quoted the same single article by Mr. Mack White. His comics are most interesting, and his articles are, to say the least, kinda thought-provoking.

Whose research again? Herbert Krugman -- he was in charge of "corporate public opinion research" for none other than General Electric, the original Spook Corporation. Krugman is a figure much like infamous Propaganda author Edward Bernays -- a hidden Godfather of the culture we live in today. His research is fascinating stuff, and it's no wonder that nobody in school shared this kind of information with me. You can only ask yourself "what's wrong with this world" for so long -- after awhile you start finding out, and then the real insomnia begins.

It is important to mention here that until Krugman's research, it was commonly believed that attitudes developed prior to behavior. This is addressed at greater length in the next section. In his landmark paper, The Impact of Television Advertising: Learning Without Involvement, Krugman (1965) posited that an alternative model of consumer behavior takes place when the consumer was not involved in the message. According to Krugman's low-involvement theory, when people view advertising without thinking about it, they do not fully consider or process the message of the ad. There is no significant attitude change. However, advertising can influence consumer decision-making without conscious awareness. Repeated exposure to advertising can lead to changes in the perceptions of what is important about a brand without the conscious or verbal recognition on the consumer's part. This can also be considered in terms of top-of-mind awareness. Repeated exposure to advertising creates top-of-mind awareness. The consumer holds no opinion of the brand until he or she recognizes it in the store and decides to buy it. Only after trial is an attitude formed.

For those interested in a more detailed discussion of "low involvement theory", check out this link. It's worth the read, if only for amusing/depressing sentences like this: Until Krugman's research, a "hierarchy of effects" model of advertising was commonly accepted. According to this model, a consumer moved toward a purchase decision in a rational manner.

My, how times do change.

From a great disinfo article on the neurological effects of television:

Indeed, even casual television viewers experience such opiate-withdrawal symptoms if they stop watching TV for a prolonged period of time. An article from South Africa's Eastern Province Herald (October 1975) described two experiments in which people from various socio-economic milieus were asked to stop watching television. In one experiment, several families volunteered to turn off their TV's for just one month. The poorest family gave in after one week, and the others suffered from depression, saying they felt as though they had "lost a friend." In the other experiment, 182 West Germans agreed to kick their television viewing habit for a year, with the added bonus of payment. None could resist the urge longer than six months, and over time all of the participants showed the symptoms of opiate-withdrawal: increased anxiety, frustration, and depression. The signs of addiction are all around us. The average American watches over four hours of television every day, and 49% of those continue to watch despite admitting to doing it excessively. These are the classic indicators of an addict in denial: addicts know they're doing harm to themselves, but continue to use the drug regardless.

Sadly, those depressing numbers are laughably optimistic. After all, the "average american" is an abstraction of statistics, there is no such human anywhere. It's instructive to look at more specific data, like the fact that males age 18 to 30 watch over 8 hours of television per day. Or, hey, let's ask the televisions themselves -- on "average", the American living room TV is on for seven hours and 40 minutes each day.

The average American spends 9.6 hours a day inhaling media: watching television, using computers, listening to the radio, going to the movies and/or reading, according to the Census Bureau's 2007 Statistical Abstract.

Oh yeah, reading.

Control Images, Control Machine

Fox News was modeled after the achievements of Silvio Berlusconi, who rebuilt Mussolini's dream of a Fascist Italy through total media consolidation:

Silvio Berlusconi is the richest man in Italy. According to Forbes, Berlusconi is worth more than $10 billion (US) and is ranked as the 30th richest person in the world. The cornerstone of the Berlusconi empire is the incredibly successful Fininvest investment holding company. Through Fininvest, Berlusconi owns television, radio and newspapers that reach 90% of the Italian populace. In addition to numerous banking, insurance and publishing interests, Berlusconi also owns the AC Milan soccer team. In 2001, Berlusconi was not also Italy's richest citizen, he was also elected its prime minister.

Italy is a most instructive study. See if you recognize anything in the following Berlusconi quote:

"Eighty-five per cent of the Italian press is left-wing and among the judges it is even worse. There is a cancer in Italy that we have to treat: the politicization of the magistracy...out of love for Italy, I felt I had to save it from the left."

Bear in mind, this is the dude who owns 90% of the Italian press. You would think...hope and pray... that people would see through such blatant hypocrisy....but like I said, Italy is a most instructive study. Because we live in the United States.

Curious primates would do well to begin here.

The Gaping Maw

"Television brought the brutality of war into the comfort of the living room. Vietnam was lost in the living rooms of America -- not on the battlefields of Vietnam." --St. Marshall McLuhan

I have a very bastardized conception of Marshall McLuhan because I was introduced to his work via Bob Dobbs, a Canadian media theorist. Dobbs is a great trickster archetype, which could just be a polite way of saying wow, this dude is chock full of shit. Either way, it makes for some great reading:

The people of the Earth are encouraged to engage in an experiment of utmost urgency. We must turn off the electric environment for a period of one week to perform a cleansing of mass-man's mind, body and spirit. We must get back to our bodies, lest we forget they are still there! Imagine the freedom to be experienced as the top-down cultural control of civilization is eradicated for even the briefest period! If everyone did participate in the media Fast, how would we know it happened? Stay tuned...

Anyways, the following quotation is unverifiable, but Dobbs attributes it to Marshall McLuhan circa 1954. McLuhan is (or is not) speaking about Finnegans Wake, a book I have been "reading" for a good six years now -- many people I know have been spending decades on it. I include it because regardless of origin, it's still a fascinating and meaty concept to chew over. Ahem:

"This may seem very specialized, very arty. Actually it spells out into the most practical political and social consequences for each one of us. What Joyce is saying is that for the first time in history man now has the means of observing the social process as the process of redemption. This he can do because the social process is the analogue of the process of sense perception and interior cognition. And the process of perception is that of incarnation. For anybody concerned with the subject of Catholic humanism in modern letters, I should think that Joyce's insight, which was marvelously realized in his work, is the most inspiring development that is possible to conceive. But we must ask, what happens when this insight occurs even in a fragmentary way to the secular minds of our age? The answer can be found in The Foundations of Social Survival a recent book by John Lindberg, a Swedish nobleman associated with the United Nations. His proposal for social survival is that we adopt the Christian doctrine of brotherly love. He is not a Christian but he thinks Christianity might be made to work by non-Christians. Perhaps he has in mind that it appears to be unworkable when left to Christians. In short, he proposes practical Christianity as a sort of Machiavellian strategy of culture and power. And his reasons are directly linked to the developments I have outlined in modern letters. Namely that in the modern world we have, through the very perfection and instantaneity of our means of communication, made it impossible to resolve the conflicting claims of the numerous societies and cultures which are now in close association. Neither can we hope to impose any one culture on all the others and reduce them to a single form. But, he argues, we now have the key to the creative process which brings all cultures into existence (namely the extension into social institutions of the central form and mystery of the human cognitive process). And it is this key which he proposes to deliver into the hands of a world government."

This might seem like a lot to digest. Television is light. As Eric McLuhan (yeah, Son of Marshall) often points out, movies involve the projection of light onto a screen. Everyone in the theatre is sitting in their chair and looking at the screen, as their visual cortex sorts out the reflected light into a continuous moving image. Yet television blasts the light directly at your eyes -- as Eric puts it, "you are the screen."

Anyone who has been reading the abundance of NLP material in the BIPT Library knows that humans are uniquely succeptable to hypnosis, and we know from the neurological research that television places humans right in the zone for a trance state. So how do children model behavior? Why do the same catchphrases occur all around the world -- and why can't you get them out of your head? Why is 50 Cent so big in Africa?

There is a very rich and very suppressed history of how television was introduced around the World. Obviously TV didn't appear overnight, and it's effects have varied from culture to culture in fascinating ways. It's not an idle question: why is there no academic attention paid to this? My answer -- tenative -- is that, much like Tesla and biological weaponry, research is thriving but classified. If you're as interested as myself, here's a good place to start.

For anyone still confused by Bob Dobbs and his message, I think you will find everything clearly and easily explained right here.

Fighting Back

Remember the TV-B-Gone? It never really went away, you can still order one off their website. It's an outstanding little chunk of tech, and -- believe me -- a shitload of fun.

However, there's an issue that needs to be considered here -- why dick around with a handheld device that can only turn off one TV at a time? Is there a TV-B-Gone A-bomb? Could we design a box that would, for instance, shut down 20 square city blocks of television?

Courtesty of instructables, here's a guide to beefing up a TV-B-Gone, and a user comment raises a most interesting point:

Busy Hands: I have been hearing about airports and other public places covering the IR receivers in their public area TVs in order to keep victims from turning them off. Anyone experienced this? TechGuy92: often they will place the tv in a decorative cabinet with an opening just big enough for the screen, in effect protecting the IR reciever but also any buttons from people wishing to change the channel.

As one of the greatest anarchists of all time was known to remark: "Clearly...this means war." Those interested in pursuing a final solution for any and all electronic devices should refer back to our classic Brainsturbator article on EMP weapons.

Because you know what? Bugs is right. There really is a global elite, and they really have declared war on us "useless eaters". If you never heard that phrase before, google it, it's a most instructive line of research.

Did you know Sony has a patent for technology that beams ads into your head? Do you think I'm kidding when you read something like that? Do you think it's science fiction or conspiracy theory when I quote lines that describe their "technique for aiming ultrasonic pulses at specific areas of the brain to induce "sensory experiences" such as smells, sounds and images." -- does that just sound crazy?

Well, it is. The future is utterly crazy and it's already here. Welcome to 2007, hopefully Brainsturbator will still be useful for you by the time this year is over.

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