Can You Kick the TV Habit, for One Week?
By Aaron “Ukulele Loki” Johnson

For eight years I have lived without television. It started when I lived in the dorms and couldn’t afford one. Since then, TV freedom has become a conscious decision, and the single most important lifestyle choice I have ever made. And I don’t mind being smug or obnoxious by telling people about it.

What do I have against TV? I personally find television offensive. Not because it’s filled with sex and compromising moral situations -- sex and compromising moral situations make life interesting. I find television offensive because it’s totally disinteresting. TV is filled with flagrant idiocy; insincerity; random trivia, and pointless noise outbursts; not to mention a cavalcade of salesmen and other sorts of people I would never choose to have over as company in my home. Every time you turn on your television, you are inviting several thousand company spokespeople in to your home – who are each paid a great deal more than you will ever dream of making – for the sole purpose of telling you what to do with your scant earnings. And they’re not even bashful about it.

Imagine how terrifically shocked you’d be if, during dinner, someone crashed a car into your living room, fired off several rounds of ammunition from an automatic weapon, implied that you had offensive body odor and proceeded to try and sell you life insurance, chewing gum, a diamond engagement ring, and a new long distance calling plan for weekends and evenings all within the span of three minutes. Repeat that scenario for hours on end and you have replicated the environment most Americans willfully create in their own homes on a daily basis simply by turning on the television.

“But what about the News?” People ask me, “don’t you like to know what’s going on in the world?” Yes I do. That’s why I don’t watch television. The evening News is carefully constructed upon a formula guaranteed to terrorize and trivialize every aspect of modern life without offending or provoking. The days of investigative journalism are gone. Today there are more car-crash reports than topical events. Even when the nightly news approaches a topic that carries some relevance, it does so with a classic bait and switch. The anchor pretends to talk about something important but then, before there’s even been enough time to open the topic, let alone expand upon it, the topic is repackaged, closed and transitioned into something else. And that something else is a commercial break, a sports victory, or most commonly, the weather. The weather! -- The one topic that comes up most often between awkward strangers. If you want to know the weather, open a window. If you can’t give up the evening news, don’t fool yourself by saying “I like to know what’s going on in the world.” Just come out and admit that you have a bizarre, and life-consuming fetish for the weather. That, and you’re unable to cope with life in the absence of rapidly moving, brightly colored images.

There is a new term used by media critics: Prop-AGENDA. It refers to the use of media to not only influence and sway opinion but to actually set the agenda. Let’s use Janet Jackson’s breast as an example. Since I don’t have TV, I didn’t see Janet Jackson’s notorious nipple. I didn’t see one pundit comment about it, or one smarmy comedian make lame jokes about it. Eventually I saw a photo of the offending member when it ran in the Onion. I couldn’t believe what the fuss was about. I’ve seen breasts. I’ve even seen nipples. That photo contained neither a breast nor a nipple. The nipple was made of metal. The breast was made of some sort of highly reflective, engorged, plastic alloy. What was the big deal? There was no big deal. But since TV said it was a big deal it became one. And suddenly missing WMDs no longer held as much water. Prop-agenda.

Am I shooting at sitting ducks? Most people complain about commercials and the garbage on television. But they continue to watch (on average of six hours per day in America). This is classic addiction and pathology only nobody’s noticing because everybody has it. Think you’re immune to it? Turn off your television for one week. Then see how you feel. -- One full week. NO TV. Cold turkey. Not even a peak. If it’s not a big deal, and I’m just a raving, Luddite with an ax to grind, then you should be able to do it. No problem. Right? Try it. Turn it off, and move it out of the room. After that, you can tell me what a smug, reactionary I am or say “yeah, but what about The Sopranos.” And I’ll look forward to the conversation. In One week.

TV Turnoff Week is Monday April 21 – Sunday, April 27th. Find out more at:


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