I picked up the "Four Arguments for The Elimination of Television" by Jerry Mander last year at my favorite bookstore here in Dallas. I heard the book mentioned in passing on a podcast, bought it, and the book set on my bookshelf for over year. I skimmed through it then and found a few points relevant, but nothing stood out until today.
In wrapping context around some of the broader concepts in writing my third book, Jerry Mander’s book stood out to me as I peered at my bookshelf while sipping a cup of tea. The title, ambitions, I thought, but the content could shed some light on why our brains remain so noisy, so cluttered.
I opened the text to a portion of material Mander listed under “Television Is Sleep Teaching.”
In the section, he covers psychologists Merrelyn and Fred Emery 1975 research. The researches of the Emery report acknowledge shortcomings in its findings and states “that it is tantamount to scandal that there has been so little research on the neurophysiology of television watching.” However, their findings still intrigued me:
“The report explains that since television information is taking place where the viewer is not, it cannot be acted upon. The viewer must deliberately inhibit the neural pathways between visual and the autonomic nervous system, which stimulates movement and mental attention. The viewer is left in a passive but also frustrated state (207).”
There goes my Netflix binge. Mander goes on to state:
““Their [Merrelyn and Fred Emery] findings support the idea that television information enters unfiltered and whole, directly into the memory banks, but is not available for conscious analysis, understanding or learning. It is sleep teaching (207).”
So because we are not “actors” in the mental stories we willing participate in through the television shows we watch we can become frustrated and passive robots who are being sleep taught by directors who may or may not have our best interest in mind. OK, what to do what that?
If you are like me and seek enough mental space to create and imagine then the obvious answer is to be more selective with what we watch on television. It goes back to the idea that a small amount of discipline creates freedom or at least mental clarity.