The Trouble Behind TV!

From the January 1999 Trumpet Print Edition

Good or bad, TV is here to stay. At the time of television’s invention in the 1930s, some wondered if the new technology would catch hold. Today, we know that it did in a very big way. Surveys show that 98 percent of American households have one TV set; 64 percent have two or more. Numerous surveys show that the average American (including children) watches more than three hours of TV each day. Children whose parents work watch six to eight hours each day.

Because so much time is spent watching television, shouldn’t we take some time to evaluate its impact on our lives? TV has been both praised and denounced. But even those who denounce it don’t understand the real trouble behind television. What are the troubles with television?

We must agree that it is a mass-communication wonder. Developments in its technology have been simply astounding! The first TV screens were monochrome and 7 to 10 inches diagonally across. Today we have color TV screens in all sizes. The first TV cameras were large and bulky. Today we have miniaturized TV cameras that can be used for military, scientific and home security purposes.

TV technology linked to space-age satellites has given us the ability to view our world better than ever before. For example, TV cameras mounted on satellites help us predict weather. High-resolution cameras mounted in Landsat satellites have been successfully used to provide surveys of crop, mineral and marine resources. The marriage of TV technology and satellites has also provided us the opportunity to view a news event, as it happens, anywhere on the globe. Ted Turner’s CNN brought the Gulf War into American homes. Many were mesmerized by the military action over Baghdad as it happened. Closed-circuit TV is used as an educational tool by many institutions of higher learning. A teacher or a professor can instruct students in a myriad of classrooms around the globe at the same time.

Escaping Reality

Scientists are continuing to develop and improve television’s technology. But why has TV taken such a hold on people? Is it because of the advancement of technology?

Even with TV’s marvelous advancement, let’s not be fooled, TV is entertainment. Edward R. Murrow, one of the most talented pioneers of TV news broadcasting stated, “Television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us.” We should carefully consider this man’s statement. Murrow clearly saw the trend developing with television. A technology that could be used for much good was almost immediately rendered useless. How? Realize, Murrow was fired from CBS in the ’50s because of his unswerving desire to tell the truth with news. But truth in news adversely affected ratings. CBS officials recognized that the American people didn’t want to know the truth. In fact, American tastes in TV programming proved that the untrue and unreal were far more favored. Men like Murrow were quickly removed from TV. Why? People wanted to be distracted, deluded, amused and insulated from the terrible truths running rampant in the real world.

It is the unreal that gives TV its appeal. Remember, television was developed at the same time our world had been shattered by two World Wars. The atomic bomb, exploded at the end of World War II, defined a stark, new reality that permanently colored all future human activity. With the further development of the hydrogen bomb, most people could not deal with living in the shadow of the bomb. They wanted to escape the reality of a world gone lunatic. TV gave people the means.

A 1964 article in TV Guide summed up what most Americans were feeling about their world. “Who is to tell the American public what it should watch on TV? Shall a handful of eggheads tell the public that they should watch only bumbling old men on interview shows discuss what’s wrong with the world?… In the quiet of the evening, in our own homes, we want to close the door on the world of reality. We want to relax. We want to be entertained. The Western TV show is the favorite entertainment of Americans. That has been proved each and every week.

“If the world is going to come to an end, let it come while we’re watching ‘Gunsmoke,’ ‘The Rifleman,’ ‘Tales of Wells Fargo’ and ‘Shotgun Slade.’” If this article was a true reflection of the sentiment of the American people then, think how much more true it must be today. Scientists have recently moved the doomsday clock to nine minutes to midnight. Nuclear doom is on our doorsteps.

Plug-in Drug

Let’s face it. We love TV because it helps us escape reality. That is why TV has taken such hold on people. The desire to escape from the pressures and stresses of our world is understandable. Escaping from time to time is healthy. But we have to recognize that our television watching has become an obsessive habit—we have lost control. Most people are now completely out of touch with the reality this world faces. Soon, earth-shaking trouble is going to descend on an unsuspecting world.

One expert has reasonably described TV as the plug-in drug. Marie Winn writes, “Not unlike drugs or alcohol, the television experience allows the participant to blot out the real world and enter into a pleasurable and passive mental state. The worries and anxieties of reality are as effectively deferred by becoming absorbed in a television program as by going on a ‘trip’ induced by drugs…. People similarly overestimate their control over television watching. Even as they put off other activities to spend hour after hour watching television, they feel they could easily resume living a different, less passive style. But somehow or other while the television set is present in their homes, the click doesn’t sound. With television pleasures available, those other experiences seem less attractive, more difficult somehow” (The Plug-In Drug, p. 21). Winn’s evaluation of TV is all too true. Many people casually refer to their TV watching as an addiction. All of us have heard someone say, I am hooked on TV. Has TV become the most socially accepted drug? Think about it. Are you hooked on TV?

The point is, TV moguls want us hooked. This is why TV offers something for everyone. Television sets come with 99 channels. So your choice in programming has become almost infinite. Cable companies have found a way to fill each channel with everything: home shopping, uninterrupted movies, pornography, cartoons, sci-fi thrillers, nature films, history films, music videos, news, views and just about anything else a person can derive pleasure from. There is a delicacy for every taste.

It used to be that television programming was only offered by three networks: ABC, CBS and NBC. Now, it seems, new networks are added each year. We can now select programs on FOX, WB, UPN and PAXNET. All of these networks compete for your viewing time. Why? High viewership means high ratings. High ratings bring in big advertising dollars. TV junkies make TV pushers very rich.

Damage to Children

Being hooked on TV is dangerous. This is especially true for children. There are a multitude of studies now published that prove the harmful effects of TV on them. Obesity, irritability, depression and poor physical and mental development can be linked to excessive TV viewing. TV is passive. No input is required. Healthy growth and development in children comes as a result of challenging, constructive activities such as building with blocks, reading books, learning to play a musical instrument and playing sports. Children need to do—not just watch. Excessive TV viewing robs children of healthy bodies and minds.

But of even more concern, TV damages children (and adults) morally. Marshal McLuhan, a communications expert, stated: “Television is teaching all the time. It does more educating than the schools and all the institutions of higher learning.” TV is full of violent, sexually explicit and cynical programs. If we look at TV honestly, we have to conclude that our children are getting a great education in moral depravity.

A National Cable Television Association (NCTA) study conducted over a three-year period counted 50,000 violent acts shown on TV. The study, published in April 1988, concluded that children are directly affected by TV violence. Members of the motion picture industry criticized the study, calling it skewed. Are we surprised? Members of the motion picture industry do not believe that a direct correlation can be made between TV violence and youth violence.

We must not delude ourselves. Our kids are affected by what they see on TV. A steady diet of violence teaches aggressive attitudes and behaviors. Although not every child watching TV violence will imitate violent acts, some will. Law officials wonder if the unusual number of violent shootings in high schools last year was the result of teens imitating what they viewed on news broadcasts.

In a similar vein, we must conclude that a steady diet of illicit sex teaches kids that illicit sex is OK and encourages them to imitate sex acts they view on TV.

Of equal concern should be the fact that watching so much violence desensitizes children (and adults) to violence. Children who view a lot of violence are not shocked by it. Studies show that children who watch a lot of violence accept it as a normal part of life. Isn’t this true of American culture? As a society we are becoming less bothered by violence in general. There have been many disturbing news reports of neighbors or passers-by simply watching another human being murdered. No one intervened to help. Could the real act of violence have seemed like just another TV drama?

Substitute Parent

Many parents express their concerns about TV. So why don’t more parents do something about it? Unfortunately, TV has helped ease the difficulties related to child rearing. Parents have discovered that nothing can silence kids better than the tube. It is a great baby-sitter. For families where both parents work, it has also become a substitute parent.

We live in a fast-paced society where both parents generally work. This creates enormous pressure on families. People are stressed out. After a hard day at the office, or on the job, few parents have the energy to deal with the needs of kids. So, most parents let their children watch television. Some parents who work cannot afford proper child care, so the kids are home alone after school and during the summer months with the TV. Often kids’ TV viewing is not monitored. Studies show that kids will most always choose adult programs over kids’ shows. Leaving kids alone with a TV is probably the worst damage done to kids.

To keep their children safe, many parents diligently teach their children not to talk with strangers. Yet parents will let strangers indiscriminately into their living rooms through their television sets. Children sit in front the tube wide-eyed—taking in all that is said and done. And all of it looks real! Realize, a child cannot discern what is real and what is unreal. Your child is a target! Advertisers and movie producers openly admit that programs and advertisements are produced to sway the minds of your child. Why? There is money to be made from your child.

Have parents come to depend so much on television that they refuse to admit that something could be wrong with their use of it? The wrong use of television is one of the most powerfully destructive forces within the family. It prevents families from doing things which upbuild the family. It prevents them from talking and discussing important issues. It stops family activities like crafts or hobbies. It hinders families from playing indoor games and outdoor sports. It takes away from family festivities at holiday times.

Almost everybody recognizes that there are better and more fulfilling things for families to do than watch television. Yet few actually break TV’s hold. Why is that?

Could it be that parents have become too selfish to spend time with their children? It does take a measure of effort and unselfishness to talk, make a craft, play a game or read a book. Many adults are too lazy to understand and do something about the trouble with television.

Prince of Air Waves

The real trouble behind television is not television at all. It is the super being who influences TV.

It is not popular to believe in Satan today, although there are many graphic programs on demonic themes. Did you know that Satan rules the airwaves? Your Bible says so. Paul writes, “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins: Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (Eph. 2:1-3). Here Paul reveals that Satan is the prince of the power of the air. In other words, Satan is a master broadcaster.

Herbert Armstrong wrote: “Grasp it! Satan is here called ‘the prince of the power of the air!’ I could not have understood that 60 years ago. I did not then realize how communication by sound and by picture can be broadcast instantaneously through the air.

“I have stressed the point that Satan, the former great archangel cherub Lucifer, was the most perfect and powerful being that God could create as an individual being. He was perfect as originally created. But he is composed of spirit, and thus he is invisible to human eyes.

“This great and powerful being, even though evil, has power literally to surcharge the air around this earth. He broadcasts!” (Human Nature—Did God Create It?, pp. 7-8). Of course, Mr. Armstrong was mainly speaking spiritually; yet, in type, the same principle can be applied physically. Satan is the mastermind behind television. Satan is the real trouble behind television. He is broadcasting to many unsuspecting minds a way of life that is contrary to God’s ways. Experts know that if you want to change the minds of the public, do it with television.

Many of our traditional values have been changed by sitcoms. Think about it. Homosexuality, lesbianism, premarital sex, couples living together and pot smoking have all been made acceptable by television. Can we see that television keeps us in tune with a world going contrary to God? The Apostle John warned Christians, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (I John 2:15-17). We must come to realize that television teaches us to love this world and all the wrong, harmful pleasures it offers.

Get Control

What can you do to protect your family and yourself from the harmful effects of TV? Let me emphasize that you need not throw out your TV. You must get control of it. There are some worthwhile programs on television. In fact, this very magazine has a companion television program, The Key of David. (Check the back of this magazine for airing times in your area.) It will keep you well-informed about the difficult problems facing our world.

So how do you get control of your TV? Be more selective about the programs you watch. Become aware of the programs which are actively promoting values, thoughts and mores you do not agree with. Programs that glamorize crime, violence and illicit sex should be eliminated from your viewing diet. Parents will have to exercise authority with teens and children. There is nothing wrong with telling your child “no” to any program.

Be sure to watch television with your kids. Studies have shown that it is best for small children if parents are watching with them. Wrong values or fallacies that creep into good programs can be dealt with immediately. Realize that even some family-oriented programs are filled with rebellion against authority, drug use and premarital sex. Watching TV with your child gives you the opportunity to teach your child right values.

Limit your viewing time. If you or your child are passively watching five to six hours of television each day it could mean that you are living in an unreal world. Remember, TV can look real, but it is mostly make-believe and fantasy. It can rob us of valuable time that would be better spent with the family. Husbands and wives need to relate to each other. The early evening hours during the school year should be full of activities like eating a meal together, talking and helping with homework. During summer vacations and school breaks, outdoor and other activities should be planned. Children should be encouraged to develop an interest or hobby. TV viewing should be only one of a series of scheduled activities. Then when the activity is over, turn off the set. Turning off your TV is probably the hardest thing to do. But the more frequently you do it, the easier it becomes.

Take some time to evaluate how TV impacts your life. Use television wisely and it will provide some benefit for you and your family. But remember, there is real trouble with television if you allow it to dominate your life.