This is Your Brain on Television

Tyler C. Turner

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Today, individuals spend an average of at least eight hours a week watching television. But, before television was invented, books were the best form of entertainment available. Now that watching television has displaced reading, we must observe the dire effects of this action. The era when books and stories were the primary form of entertainment had many advantages that the era of television either lacks or indirectly destroys. Reading not only provided the people in past ages with entertainment, but it also stimulated their imagination, appealed to their intellect, and instilled moral values. Television, on the other hand, stagnates imagination, appeals to base emotions, and undermines our society’s moral fiber.

One of the advantages reading has over television is that it stimulates your imagination. For example, whenever you read a book, you must use your imagination to envision what is taking place or being presented. Even when reading about science or mathematics, you must employ you imagination in order to comprehend the abstract ideas presented. Similarly, in reading stories you must use your imagination to follow the character through his various adventures. This, in turn, will improve your ability to think and reason. When thinking and/or reasoning, a well-developed imagination enables you to visualize all the factors in the deliberations and the solutions or deductions derived thereby. Therefore, you can readily see the importance of a well-developed imagination. Reading stimulates the use of your imagination, and as a result, it gives your imagination the opportunity to develop.

Watching television, on the other hand, hinders this development. Moreover, television stagnates your imagination. Everything you see on television is spoon-fed to you. When watching a movie, for instance, you view the character and his surroundings on a screen. You follow all his adventures on the screen rather than in your mind. In fact, you don’t use your imagination at all. Even when you’re watching the news, the information presented bypasses your imagination.1 Thus, while television is manipulating your thoughts and emotions, your imagination stagnates. The old saying, “if you don’t use it, you lose it!” applies here as it does anywhere. You can draw your own conclusions from the facts presented, but when your imagination deteriorates, or doesn’t have the opportunity to properly develop, your ability to think and reason will also deteriorate.

In the era when reading was the prevalent means of entertainment, the people then had a well-developed imagination. In addition, the books and stories produced appealed to the peoples’ intellect. The writers utilized witty aphorisms, and alluded to earlier works that had the effect of forcing serious thought out of the reader. Hence, only the most learned and intelligent people could really appreciate their value. Furthermore, the books and stories these writers created became a cultural expression, and the intelligentsia of a society are the epitome of that society’s culture. Nearly all the books and stories composed back then appealed to the intellect, and, therefore, were directed towards the intelligentsia.

In contrast, television is aimed at the masses. And, as a result, it appeals to peoples’ emotions rather than their intellect. When you watch television, you aren’t forced to think. The colors, actions, and words are designed to provoke common emotions. Television programs may entice a variety of sensual feelings, but they will seldom ever compel thought. The masses in general have a very low intellect. Therefore, since television is aimed at the masses, it can only appeal to base emotions, rather than intellect.

But in the era of their prevalence, books and stories not only appealed to peoples’ intellect, they also instilled the reader with morals and values. For instance, I’ll never forget what Hector did in The Iliad when he was faced with going back into battle or staying at home with his wife and son. He exemplified a man with the courage to fulfill his true duty. He knew that he would probably die in battle against Achilles, but he had the courage to turn from the entreaties of his wife, and face the enemy of his country. Just this one Story instilled me with a sense of loyalty, courage, and duty.

Television, however, rather than instilling morals and values, strives to undermine them. The reason for this is beyond the scope of this article, but the fact that television undermines our traditional morals and values is undeniable. For example, just watch one program on any night of the week, and you will see most of our traditional morals undermined and ridiculed. It may not be manifest, but even in subtle instances you will see honest people portrayed as stupid or gullible. In another program, you may find homosexuals characterized as normal people with just a “different sexual orientation” rather than the sick, degenerate creatures they really are. Change the channel, and you will find another program that portrays miscegenation as something that a healthy society should condone rather than deplore. Television is undermining all our traditional morals and values, and what is worse, it has a tendency to applaud overt immorality.

The books and stories of old provided us with many advantages besides entertainment. Thus, while we were reading about the war between the Trojans and the Greeks, or Njal’s house being burned to the ground, we were also developing our imagination, and thereby improving our ability to think and reason. Moreover, we were being instilled with a sense of honesty, courage, loyalty, and many other invaluable virtues. But television, on the other hand, is incessantly destroying our imagination and undermining our morals. Take note, however, that I’m not suggesting we should regress back in time (even if this were possible) when there wasn’t any television. Television is here, and here to stay. But even so, television doesn’t have to be such a bad thing. On the contrary, it could be adopted to rekindle the fire of our traditional morals and appeal to our intellect. If television were directed towards the intelligentsia, and viewed only in moderation, it could become a real asset to our society. But, because of the programs currently presented and the amount of time most people spend watching it, television will eventually transform our society into a colony of demoralized, degenerate, and mindless drones.


1  At this point, I’d like to bring to your attention a valuable facility of imagination. As you are reading, your mind forms an image of what is being presented. Therefore, if your imagination perceives something illogical or absurd in that image, it will automatically dismiss it as such. But when you bypass your imagination, something that would normally seem illogical or absurd enters into your mind as being somehow relevant. And as a result, your reasoning will become utterly confused; you will never perceive a cogent image of what entered your brain with so many absurd notions floating around in your mind.

SOURCE: Liberty Bell, June 1994

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