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whatsthatsound On January - 11 - 2010

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Keep you doped with religion, and sex and TV;

and you think you’re so clever and classless and free;

but you’re still f**king peasants, as far as I can see

– John Lennon, “Working Class Hero”

Who Wants to Be a Revolutionary? Oh, there’s anger out there! America has got to be one of the most royally pissed off countries in the world. It doesn’t matter if you’re a leftie or a rightie, if you’re an American, there is a good chance that something has got your blood boiling now. It might be stolen elections, Kenyan birth certificates, Katrina, terrorists, bank bailouts, wars for oil, telecom spying, CEO’s salaries, religious fundamentalism, misleading food labeling, the slow death of the American automobile industry, the quicker demise of the American middle class or any sordid combination of the above. If you haven’t thought at some point in the last ten years or so that things are seriously FUBAR, that the system doesn’t work, and that it definitely doesn’t have YOUR best interests in mind, then I wonder about you. Where have you been?

Yes, the mood is ugly. It’s Tea Party ugly. It’s Ron Paul angry. It’s the stuff of which revolutions are made, the fire next time that burns like a thousand California wildfires that somebody, no doubt, blames Obama for (and somebody else probably blamed Bush for). Yes, there is revolution in the air!

Except, there isn’t. The American people are NOT going to revolt, folks. The country isn’t going to split apart either. The country probably isn’t even going to sweep a true maverick like Paul into power anytime soon. Why? People are too comfortable! A second American Revolution is no more likely to occur than a rebellion of the brainwashed, mutated denizens of Huxley’s “Brave New World”, and for the same exact reason. The Powers that Be have got us, folks, right where they want us. Docile, overfed, overstimulated, undernourished and undereducated, and most of all, hyper-entertained. Which has led me to wonder, what WOULD need to happen for Americans to rise up like the Founding Fathers, taking to the streets with eyes blazing and teeth gnashing? Something the Powers that Be would never be so stupid as to do; take away our televisions!

You’d see a revolution then! Without Monday Night Football and American Idol and Jeopardy and Lost and Jay and The Simpsons, without Wii and PlayStation, without commercials telling us what to buy and what meds we need to be taking, people would flat out lose it! You want anger? You ain’t seen nothing yet!

And see it you won’t. Nobody is going to take anybody’s television away. Television has done what no tyrant nor terrorist has ever come close to accomplishing. It has reduced a once proud and powerful nation to a land of dazed zombies, wearing a groove in the rug between the couch and the fridge while their warden, the glowing rectangular object in the Living Room, goads them to ask the question no revolutionary has ever asked; “What’s on after this?”

Written by whatsthatsound

Writer, Illustrator, Curmudgeon. Ferret Owner. Tokyoite, formerly Ohioan. Much nicer in person.

66 Responses so far.

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  1. AdLib says:

    WTS, I kept saving your article for a time when I could relax and enjoy it, FINALLY I have and may I say, well done!

    Love the artwork too, have missed it!

    And your point is so on target. The majority of Americans don’t even blog, they protest by eating another quart of Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby or worrying about how American Idol will survive if Simon Cowell is leaving.

    With a compromised Press and a passive citizenry…as the banks and corporations have regrouped for their next phase of takeover, it’s going to be a tough battle out there.

    Thank goodness we at least have won the arms race on humor and satire! Those are some potent weapons, keep launching them!

    • whatsthatsound says:

      Thanks a bunch, AdLib! That’s the thing, folks like us who are addicted to the internet and tend to not watch TV so much may forget that it is still the main medium for a lot of folks out there, especially the old fogies (which, at this point, means anybody older than me, I’m afraid). And such a mesmerizing medium it is! Although my piece is not meant to be taken seriously, I am sure that there are those among the entrenched elite who have noted with glee and relief that television has done a spanking good job of keeping cobwebs on pitchforks.

      • AdLib says:

        The Revolution Will Be Tivoed?

        It is a modern technological version of Bread and Circuses.

        I mean, even at this time, when banks and corporations have raped our nation, people are doing next to nothing as they refuse to loan the money that was given to them for that reason.

        We watch each day as they give out billions in bonuses to themselves for destroying the world’s economy and the best response to that is Arianna blabbering, “Dahlink, poot yar munny een ay Komunity bahnk! That vill shoe tham!”

  2. Emerald1943 says:

    Good article, WTS! I have been away for a few days and am frantically trying to catch up with my reading! Sorry to be so late in replying to you.

    You make a really good point about the complacency in the country. That same thing came up a couple of months ago concerning the Public Option in the health care reform debate. Someone wondered why the American people were not in the streets, pitchforks in hand, demanding the public option. Well, things just aren’t that bad…yet!

    The majority of American people have insurance and are happy with it. The dissatisfaction level is pretty low at this point. Perhaps we have to wait until that damned mandate is enacted. Then we may see a few of those pitchforks in the streets.

    The “tea baggers” held a pretty successful march in Washington back in September (sponsored and paid for by the insurance lobby). We tried our best to hold a march in support of the public option but met with little success, although the majority of American people supported it. I guess that the only way to get people into the streets is to hurt their wallets, or as you suggest, take away their TV’s.

    • whatsthatsound says:

      Thanks for the insightful comment, Emerald! I think your last line is completely accurate. It’s either one or the other (and of course, by “their TVs” I refer to the broader implications of our hyper-entertained society, such as games, online entertainment, and so forth).

  3. escribacat says:

    I’ve got that song in my head now and couldn’t remember where it came from. It was Gil Scott-Heron.

  4. javaz says:

    There already is a movement to take away “Free” TV or transitional digital free TV.

    http://www.tvtechnology.com/article/68654

    Rupert Murdoch is part of the push to eliminate Free TV so he can make more money.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/12/29/entertainment/main6032487.shtml

    Millions of Americans stand to lose broadcast television, since cable and satellite are not available in all areas of the country, mainly rural areas.

    When the coupons for digital converter boxes were mailed out for the transition from analog to digital, the government was shocked at the number of Americans requesting the boxes.

    My husband and I refuse to pay for TV, so if Murdoch and the rest are successful in eliminating broadcast television, we’ll start watching more movies and documentaries from the library.

    Unless you are correct, and eliminating television for millions of Americans starts a revolution.

  5. KQuark says:

    First off excellent article and fantastic illustration.

    I’m going to play contrarian here because I play one on TV but I just don’t see TV as the focus it once was and if you pick and choose what you watch you can learn and be healthfully entertained. There are at least a dozen other forms of entertainment in the digital mediums alone.

    Now the system needs to be fixed but TV is not the thing preventing revolution. Most importantly revolution is not the only way to fix the system. Europeans evolved from a gilded age to a more fair society with no bloodshed after WWII. Besides the peasants of today have it as good as royalty of yesteryear.

    What’s preventing revolution is things are just not that bad. More specifically things are not that bad for the vast majority of the population. If there were a draft they might be, if every city was like NO it might be, if we paid the much much higher taxes it might be or if the majority of people were homeless it might be. That’s the way it was before the French Revolution.

    Another bit of lyrics from John Lennon.

    You say you want a revolution
    Well you know
    We all want to change the world
    You tell me that it’s evolution
    Well you know
    We all want to change the world
    But when you talk about destruction
    Don’t you know you can count me out
    Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright

    The main reason that I think TV is not the culprit in holding people back is because things were much worse for the average American in the ’30s and their was no TV. If people were going to revolt it was back then.

    I also find no problem with people being entertained in their down time. Life is hard enough with working for a living. People deserve to be able to enjoy themselves more not less. I know the reason I want a more European society is that I would want four weeks vacation to start and limited hours of work during the work week if I wanted, etc…

    • whatsthatsound says:

      Totally appreciate the commentary, KQ. And I’m sure you realize that this is just a satirical observation, not necessarily to be taken seriously. I think your points are all valid, but also think the rise of the entertainment and advertising industries has been a peculiar aspect of human civilization that has some aspects to it that, although they may not be “bad” per se, are certainly ripe for lampooning.

      • KQuark says:

        Yep reading what I wrote again I did get waaaaay too serious, waaaaay too early.

        But taking a shot at my beloved football could not go unchallenged dude. 😉

      • KQuark says:

        I thought you figured that out when I was playing contrarian.

        I understood what you were saying I was more responding to the teabagger types you were lampooning in a more serious way.

        I do think far too many people blame mindless entertainment and instant gratification for our downfall when they just a symptom of the underlying problems. The reason people need more brainless downtime is because of the unnecessary stresses we place on one another. If people had more time to think and live their lives more fruitfully things would be quite different.

        I’m on tons of Percocet and Vicodin right now so my points are probably getting confabulated in my brain.

  6. Questinia says:

    Lately, even films like “Avatar”, a thinly veiled condemnation of America’s involvement in the Middle East, allow people to become “armchair activists” while still remaining opiated. All the energy of activism gets expressed vicariously through the action of the film. The sapped “activist” re-reclines in the lounger.

    We are now opiated and vicarious activists. The arts and media can make us feel like we’re “doing something” simply by watching what they put out.

    Great essay and visual, wts! Really great topic.

    • bitohistory says:

      I keep reading/hearing that “Avatar” is pro this anti that, I am going to need a chart. Makes me wonder if its not just a Sci-Fi movie. :-)

    • Khirad says:

      I think the thing about these movies (and why conservatives attacked it as subversive), is because it is a good story. And, the wonderful thing about SciFi and other such genres as fantasy, magical realism, etc is that they take away the buzzwords and the normal framework. I haven’t seen Avatar to know just how thinly veiled it is, but I think we’re thinking about this wrong. How many young adults will be awakened through such narrative, think about things in a different angle, connect to concepts more than they could from a history book?

      For instance, District 9 could help some look at the Israeli/Palestinian, or illegal immigration issues (whether America, France, etc) in a new light, by not hitting them over the head with it. The next time they hear a story, they might recall the movie, and see the situation in a new light.

      • Questinia says:

        This was “Dances With Wolves” gone extraterrestrial. I could just see it being pitched that way.

        Perhaps our country should enforce morality with “morality plays”. But, on some level is that not a conceit? The “right” and “just” ways should be chosen freely and naturally. Yet how do people choose when they are anesthetized and programmed? What is our duty here if there even is one?

        Who has the time and energy to debrief them from years and years of brainwashing?

        I tend to ask a lot of questions!

    • whatsthatsound says:

      Thanks, Q! No doubt the next step will be to create a “Revolution!” video game. Better than the real thing!

  7. msbadger says:

    Oh, you guys! I was just going to read and not comment, then I went to CNN homepage and found this serendipitously! Had to copy and share:
    http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/01/11/television.tv.death/index.html?eref=rss_topstories&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+rss/cnn_topstories+(RSS:+Top+Stories) It’s about how too much TV may lead to an early death! LOL! I could have told them that. Great article, SUPER artwork!

    • whatsthatsound says:

      Thanks, Ms.Badger, for the link and the praise!

    • Khirad says:

      I saw that too! Glad to see you not just lurking. 😉

      Also related, I’m a dinosaur! (since we were talking about TV v. internet below)

      The Children of Cyberspace: Old Fogies by Their 20s
      http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/10/weekinreview/10stone.html

      • whatsthatsound says:

        Great article! It reminds me of a dorky scene from the original Star Trek series. It’s, like 300 years in the future, right? So Kirk needs a lawyer because court martial charges have been brought up against him. He finds this old relic, who let us remember, was STILL born a good 200 years after all of US have passed away. And the old guy is railing against computers, and saying that Books! are the only way to really learn anything.
        uh, right……….the scene is about as plausible as going into a library and having some old geezer tell you that papyrus scrolls! are the only way to get information.

  8. PepeLepew says:

    I’m very weird with my TV. I haven’t actually watched a TV show in probably 5 years. I just plug in the XM music, MSNBC at times, hockey, NFL football, Red Sox and cycling … and that’s pretty much about it.

  9. escribacat says:

    Now that I’m addicted to the internet, I hardly ever watch TV any more. I have commercial-free music TV on when I’m working though. It’s nice background music and they tell you who the artist is.

    • Khirad says:

      I know. I certainly don’t watch network TV hardly ever. I have a few shows though: Rachel, Stewart/Colbert, The Soup, Mad Men, stuff like that. I’m not one of those “kill your TV” types, I’m just more discerning in my viewing patterns. Certainly, the internet takes care of my information and entertainment needs far more than the infotainment on TV.

    • PepeLepew says:

      XM is the life, baby! :)

    • TanzaniteBlue says:

      Hey e-cat: What’s your favorite past-time on the Internet?

      Your commercial-free music — at home — sounds relaxing.

      BTW, how did we ever live without Google? (I won’t mention those old-fashioned card catalogs in libraries.) **smiles**

      • escribacat says:

        Hi Tanzie,
        I am researching a book having to do with Colorado history so I spend a lot of time reading history stuff. You would not believe how much information is available online. Cornell University has the entire Rebellion Records (all the correspondence from the Civil War) online. Yesterday I found a bunch of good images on the Library of Congress website. I browse through museum websites and their research libraries. I’ve spent many hours on ancestry.com (despite it being owned by the Mormons!) I spend hours and hours on a Colorado website called Colorado Historical Newspapers (still — all historical research). I use books.google a lot….you shouldn’t have asked!! And for a break, I come here or post quips on HP!

  10. Kalima says:

    Wonderful wts, both the article, illustration and of course the theme. As someone who decided last year after your GE, that I didn’t need to hear another spoken word from CNN, I had heard enough babbled nonsense to last me a lifetime, my life has proceeded so far without the interruption of tv during my day.

    I choose the news Podcasts I want to watch from my ITunes list and can watch them in peace whenever I feel like watching, even fast forwarding AH when she rears her head on KO. No commercials, no screaming or throwing slippers at the screen, heaven.

    Can’t really understand people who watch their tv’s for hours on end believing every word, unless it is an elderly person living alone who needs the noise for company.

    Here in Tokyo, where the daily noises from the narrow street running in front of my house is more than enough noise for one day, my tv stays off until 6 pm, unless “Boston Legal” is on.

    • Khirad says:

      I keep it on in the background. I’m one of those crazy people whom it actually helps focus when reading. I also like to know what the TP’s are gonna be to be prepared. Do I believe half the crap they often say, or have I ever talked about a commercial? No. Well, okay maybe one. Only when it’s on though, usually (to make fun of it). Have you heard about these things called Snuggies?

      I actually think this fits your article (I’m often a little ‘off’ though):


      • boomer1949 says:

        Khirad,

        Oh my gosh! I received a hot pink one for Christmas. It’s not as easy to use as you’re led to believe. Plenty of static electricity too. No offense to the gift giver, but I’m fairly certain my kitties will soon have a new place to sleep.

      • whatsthatsound says:

        Oh, that’s sick! But funny!

      • Kalima says:

        I forgive you. I bought my first pair of “Snuggies” last year. I’m not really sure if my hubby will ever wear his but the furry ones will have a great time in it and on it.

        A friend of mine in NC is like you, he even needs the tv on to fall asleep, which is way beyond my realm of understanding I’m afraid.

        • Khirad says:

          LOL -- that’s okay on the snuggies, I find the commercials more funny than anything.

          I do that to fall asleep too -- barely loud enough to hear it, just mumbling white noise. I’ve heard better suggestions than TV to do it, but alas, the TV is there and it’s habit.

    • whatsthatsound says:

      Agree, K! Two pet peeves of mine are when people turn on the tube as soon as they wake up or get home, and hearing people talking about how interesting a television commercial they saw was!
      I go Arrggghhhh!

      • Kalima says:

        Or the people who don’t have the manners to turn the darned thing off during your visit. How rude can you get?

        • Khirad says:

          That is extremely rude. That goes from bad habit to addiction territory.

        • TanzaniteBlue says:

          What IS that? Whatever it is, it’s extremely rude.

          I despise TV. I rarely ever watch TV.

          • Kalima says:

            I have visited people where we have been talking about something I thought of as important, and caught them watching tv over my shoulder. I would fake a terrible migraine and excuse myself.

        • escribacat says:

          My mom was addicted to CNN. She had it blaring ALL the time (including Lou Dobbs). When she had to go into a temporary rehab place after being in the hospital, her “roommate” got so annoyed with her she stole the remote and hid it from her.

          • Kalima says:

            😆 I’ve done that with my husband when his golf program drove me nuts. Birdies and bogeys all day long and those half asleep voices of the announcers was more than I could bear.

            • Khirad says:

              Pepe, to golfing and cycling on TV I’d add NASCAR -- and for Canadians -- curling.

            • escribacat says:

              Kalima, Watching golf on TV has got to be the most boring thing in the universe!

            • Khirad says:

              The only time I ever got any cricket was before AZN Channel was replaced with the RFD channel with such shows such as Talk’n Tractors -- I was pissed, but I digress. Now all I get is Sky Sports cricket highlights from the Soccer Channel. I’d watch cricket before golf or poker any day.

            • Kalima says:

              My now 87 year old father loves sport, watches everything from football to cricket but just loves the snookers championships, stays up all night to watch, naughty boy.

            • PepeLepew says:

              Watching golf on TV is almost as weird as watching cycling!

            • escribacat says:

              There are worse habits! I used to watch snooker when I lived in England. I also watched the sheep dog race. Pretty slow but I got addicted to them somehow.

            • Kalima says:

              He can watch it upstairs anytime but insists on watching it downstairs on Sundays after I’ve spent hours slogging over our Sunday lunch.

              Yes it is the most boring sport but he plays once a month with his friends, even got a few holes-in-one. Here in Japan, a hole-in-one means that you have to pay for everyone at dinner after the game. No prizes here I’m afraid.

              Ah well, it’s his only vice.

  11. SueInCa says:

    Great piece, WTS. Oh for just one moment just the thought planted that someone was going to take away television. But you are right, not going to happen. Not only are the masses hooked, so are the people making money hand over fist providing the droll to us. Although I am not addicted to any of the shows you mention, I do watch L&O SVU, The Biggest Loser, L&O reg version and Cold Case regularly. Otherwise, TV is a box with noise for me. Oh and I do listen to Sirius on TV as well. My favorites are, reggae, hawaiian and 60’s with Brucie LOL. There is alot of good music coming out of Hawaii, you just have to like the occasional true hawaiin throwbacks.

    • Khirad says:

      Hawai’ian has an underground following too. I was at this guys house, and he threw on the funniest record from the record exchange. Okay, not to say there isn’t legit throwback stuff, there is, but I’m talkin’ about some wonderfully cheesy stuff to be enjoyed on the ironic level, as well.

    • whatsthatsound says:

      Yeah, it’s a HUGE industry. Something always seemed a bit strange about that to me. It’s almost like we went from Homo Erectus to Homo Sapiens to Homo Entertainus!

  12. Khirad says:

    Always reminds me more of Fahrenheit 451 more than Brave New World or 1984, regarding the television, our elections and dystopian novels.

    On another note, I always imagine Ashcroft covering up ” rel=”nofollow”>Delecroix’ Marianne.

    • whatsthatsound says:

      Ha! If you look at my Miss America, she has “Wardrobe Malfunction” written on her bra. I even thought of using Janet Jackson as my Liberte.

      I haven’t read Fahrenheit 451 in ages. Must do that.

      • Khirad says:

        I missed that, I see it now! Just glad you didn’t do a Brittany reference. 😉

        Both Bradbury’s and Truffaut’s are good on their own terms. I don’t like getting into book v. film arguments.

  13. whatsthatsound says:

    Thank you, Nellie!

  14. kesmarn says:

    WTS, it’s too cruel. This fabulous essay with its equally fabulous illustration appears at 11:30 p.m. just as I’m ready to crash!

    (Is that you I see in the lower left, crushed to the ground by the throng?)

    And, of course, your premise is absolutely on the mark. No revolution any time in our near future!

    May I only add--since I’m in the health care “industry”--that when you throw into the mix a liberal helping of easily obtained and inexpensively priced (I believe deliberately inexpensively priced!) prescription psychotropic drugs, you have a completely subdued population whose most bellicose statements will be: “Give me Xanax, or give me death,” and “Live high or die.”

    Aside from that small observation, I must say, I will have to give my brain time to recover with some sleep. And come back to this terrific art/icle (pun intended) in the morning.


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