Orthodox Survival Course, Class 39: The Great Stereopticon, Session 4, Television

Introduction: With the introduction and rapid invasion of the television into nearly every American home, and then, gradually, homes throughout the world, in the late 1940’s and the 1950’s, the power that the movies gave to the global elite to brainwash entire populations increased immeasurably. Now, instead of having to leave one’s home, go to the “magic cave” of the “stereopticon,” and pay for a ticket, the average person simply sat down in his living room and with no effort and little expense absorbed the physical, psychological, intellectual, and spiritual poison of the Antichrist spirit for several hours every evening, or perhaps many hours every day, or in some cases even for the majority of his waking hours. We cannot begin to measure the destruction wrought thereby upon everyone – everyone’s mind and family, upon Church life, upon community and society. The physical destruction wrought by the criminal globalist elite during WWII – incinerating 100,000 human beings in one night in Dresden, for example – is nothing compared to it. For the spread of television enabled the elite, as never before, to destroy the soul.

Today, with Internet pornography addiction, social media addiction, and smartphone addiction destroying countless souls, worries about good old-fashioned television may seem outdated, even quaint. We’ll get around to the Internet and cellphones. But right now, in this session, let’s go back in time to Ye Olden Days of the Reign of Television, and look at this thing from the Orthodox point of view. Not only will the historical background help us, but also we have to realize that a lot of people still do spend a lot of time in front of bigger and bigger TV sets showing worse and worse content. This is especially true of the elderly and of the mothers, children, and unemployed and disabled members of poor and less educated families.

So many writers have written so much against television – so much that has never been refuted effectively by anyone – that today when we call it the Idiot Box and so forth, no one really objects. Everybody knows that this thing has made us into human beings who are significantly less intelligent and less active and less fruitful and less independent than our ancestors, has made us comparatively stupid and passive and unproductive and enslaved. Video games do indeed lessen attention span and reduce the capacity for rational thought, but television was doing it first, long before video games existed. The little screen of the smart phone is indeed a consuming goddess, but her older sister, the television set in the family room, prepared the way for the smart phone’s current career of worldwide mental and spiritual genocide.

People my age in America – the so-called Baby Boomers – are the last generation reared by parents who did not have a television when they were children. Our parents – the misnamed “Greatest Generation” – who had no idea of the great advantage they had in possessing minds not deformed by television in their formative years, eagerly embraced the new medium and rushed to buy the best television sets they could afford and watch them as much as they could, along with us, their children. And not only that, but they used the television to occupy us when they wished to be free of caring for us in order to do other things. So we are the first generation raised on the electronic babysitter, and it shows – the shallowness, selfishness, and stupidity of my generation of Americans are infamous throughout the world. We are the children of television. The societal mess we have bequeathed to our children and grandchildren is the direct result of the interior mess in our own TV-addled brains

Nothing of what I am saying is considered controversial by educated people on the right, center, or left of the political and cultural spectrum. Veterans of the television industry itself, far-left secularists, have written damning screeds against The Idiot Box for decades, and Hollywood has even made popular movies attacking it. Everyone knows what this thing has done to us. Then why do we not get rid of it? There are a lot of answers – the technology itself is physically addicting, it enables mental laziness, it relieves boredom, it satisfies vain curiosity, it caters to basic passions such as lust and anger by purveying illicit sexual imagery and unending physical violence, and on and on. I would like to offer an all-inclusive, very Orthodox answer: We don’t get rid of television because our enemy the devil has hypnotized us, using the very thing we need to get rid of. I mean that literally – we are the subjects of mass hypnosis. If you don’t think the demons want you to have a television set, just try getting rid of one you may already have – parents, relatives, and friends who come to your home and see that you are so “deprived” will offer to buy or give you one. As a friend once told me, “Never worry about buying a television set – the devil will make sure someone will give you one.”

The only answer, of course, is the simplest one: As they say, “Kill your television!” Just get rid of it. There are many other things to do with one’s time, such as prayer and reading. Frankly, it would be better to do absolutely nothing. Everyone knows this. What we lack is a firm resolve.

I know that some younger people may consider the this critique of TV per se as anachronistic. Many no longer own what could be called a television set, and many watch only selected videos on the Internet or spend all their screen time on social media. But we need to understand both what television has done to us in the past and how many of its destructive effects are still with us, some of which have now been exacerbated by the Internet and by smart phones. On the other hand, I think we can say, with cautious optimism, that video via Internet offers some genuine advantages over the old network or cable television, and that, used wisely, it may be of real help to us. We’ll leave that discussion to later, when we talk about the Internet. And I do have to admit that not only do I distribute these audio recordings on the Internet but, after some hesitation, I have agreed to film some short video talks. You can see our YouTube videos at the URL below – we’ve posted twelve so far, and I’m afraid that there are plans for many more. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQb5bdq0KYOcIzJl9dlUFZQ/playlists?view_as=subscriber

Now let’s get back to understanding television in the light of history while using our Orthodox lens: Let us recall that the Church’s concern is for the whole of man, not just his spiritual life as something somehow disconnected from the rest of his life. Nowadays some bishops and priests like to stick their heads in the sand, and they want to stick your heads there too: “Don’t worry about what goes on in society, just pray at home and in Church, but in society go with the flow!” One problem with that approach is that it has no precedent, for the Church has never done that. She has always been in the forefront of fighting for her children in every sphere – the spiritual, the intellectual, physical, social, political, you name it – because her care is for the whole person – soul and body – and not only for the whole person individually, but also for persons considered not as isolated individuals but as members of families, clans, and nations. She is the Mother and Teacher of the Nations, not an esoteric club for alienated misfits who want to “veg out” on some kind of private spiritual exercises. Another problem with this ostrich approach is that those who want to destroy us are not going to leave us in peace at home and in Church. The enemy is already within the gates. Nowadays it’s fight or die. There is no other choice.

So, then, our concern as the Orthodox Church being for the whole of the person, both in himself – his spirit, soul, mind, body – and as a member of a family, a community, and a historic nation – must we not subject to a severe critique anything that damages the soul and body, the family, the community, and the nation, on such a vast scale as television has done? Of course we must. So let us take a critical look at television. I cannot here say everything that is wrong with it. That would require a semester-long college course. But I would like to make a few points, and relate my critique to our Orthodox viewpoint.

Point 1: Television re-wired the brain. When the dominant visual medium was the movies, most people only watched two and a half hours per week – enough for one feature film and a few “shorts” like cartoons and newsreels. When the TV revolution overtook mass populations in the 1950’s, two things happened: 1. People were suddenly watching for many hours per week – say, at least, three hours of prime time television on weekdays, that’s fifteen hours, plus ten hours on weekends. And that is a minimum! 2. The dominant video medium technology was itself radically different. Movies are something outside of you – you really look at them. The cathode ray tube did the opposite – it projected the image into your brain. The addiction then went from only a psychological addiction to being both physical and psychological. And people’s brains became physically affected, re-wired. So many studies, after nearly 70 years of television, show that x number of hours of TV watching actually shrink the part of the brain used for reading and analytical thinking, that one must conclude, inescapably, that TV is being used to create a new kind of human being, one that cannot think for himself, that is easily manipulated by a rapid succession of incoherent visual images and non-rational sounds. As we pointed out much earlier in one of our OSC classes, the goal of the Anti-Christ elite is to “redefine what it means to be human.” Television technology has been used to advance this goal with terrible, catastrophic effectiveness. With this in mind, I cannot emphasize enough that, above all, small children should not watch television. Their neurological system is very malleable, still being formed, but by age six they are hard-wired. How do you want to hard-wire them? Every responsible parent should face this undeniable fact and make a conscientious decision. Some may argue that today’s LED technology is less dangerous than the CRT. I am not conversant in the research on this, but I think it behoves us to approach such claims with caution. I invite one or more of our listeners who may have read more on the subject to send me further information.

The Lord made our minds to know Him and to know His creation, and anything we do that really damages the mind, that we have consciously chosen and could have avoided, is a sin. Let us examine our use of the television and ask ourselves honestly where we stand in this regard, and what we need to do about it.

Point 2: Television isolated families in their homes and cut them off from their neighbors. I am from the American South, that region of our country most hated and vilified by the Antichrist New World Order, precisely because we hung on to our traditional, organic, and local cultures longer than other regions of the United States. Of course, the real old-fashioned South is a thing of the past, except in a few isolated and tiny pockets of our various, once-sovereign States, and today we have the New South, made possible by two technologies: air-conditioning and television. Air-conditioning made possible the industrialization of the South, destroying its traditional agrarian character, and it made people want to stay indoors all the time in order to escape the high temperatures and high humidity that dominate half of our year. Then, once air-conditioning drew people inside, the television hypnotized them, gluing them to their couches and keeping them inside. The formerly much-loved front porch with its big porch swing and rocking chairs, the gathering place for the extended family, the clan, and the neighborhood, that vast network of miniature public fora of American small-town and urban ethnic neighborhood life, was abandoned for the isolated and isolating cave of the darkened living room, illuminated only by the flickering light of the cathode ray tube and peopled by a few individuals who though bodily next to each other were mentally each locked in his or her own unreal world. Within one generation, the traditional social cohesion of Southern communities was weakened beyond recognition. And the South, of course, is only one, albeit a most dramatic, example. This terrible destruction of traditional social bonds was repeated everywhere television watching replaced the traditional social activities of ordinary folks’ leisure hours.

Ask yourself: How many hours – nay, how many minutes – of your week are spent talking to your neighbors? For most of us, the answer is little or none. People feel closer to some fictional character in their favorite sitcom or soap opera, or to some news anchor or talk show host, than they do to the man next door. A young fellow cannot imagine marrying the girl next door, because he has never met her. This destruction of normal social bonds, normal social psychology, is catastrophic. Our Lord commands us to love our neighbor. At one time, it was easy to say who that was – literally the folks next door. Now we have to try so hard to have semi-normal social bonds. At most, perhaps, we can feel close to our fellow parishioners once a week at Church. Outside of that, daily life is a social desert for most people. As Orthodox Christians and people trying to recover being normal human beings, we need to show an interest in, to be kind to, and ultimately to bring the Faith to the people right around us. We need to start thinking about ways to do this. Getting out of our video media cave is a start.

Point 3: Television made rapid cultural genocide possible. Cultural genocide means taking away people’s native language, folkways, arts, morals, faith, and, in sum, their very identity, and making them become someone else. Today it means being homogenized into the bland, sub-human, stupid, and meaningless identity of the new global anti-culture created by the Antichrist globalist elite. To get back to my example of the American South in the 1950’s and ’60’s: TV homogenized their minds, so that they no longer wanted to imitate old-fashioned Alabamians or Georgians like their parents and grandparents, but rather wanted to think and talk like Mr. Generic American Guy they saw on television. They even began to lose their beautiful regional accents, and everyone began to sound like Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show. But this example of the South is just that: only one example. TV has done this to people all over the world. The tiny elite that controls the medium cook up a fake identity for this or that ethnic group or nation or cultural or religious group and they get them to swallow it, to identify with it. Then they blend that identity in with some “multicultural” (i.e. monocultural) identity they have up their sleeves, to make them into “global citizens” of the One World Order. Of course, this Anti-Christ One World thing is as old as the Tower of Babel, and in modern times it goes back at least to the plans of the Illuminati and related groups in the 18th century, and at that time they used print media to advance their agenda. Later, radio and cinema made more rapid cultural homogenization possible, of course. But television put the process “on steroids,” as the saying goes – it advanced not by steps but by quantum leaps. Today, of course, we are worried about something even more radical than cultural homogenization – we now face the destruction of the human race itself, with abortion, contraception, the LGBT agenda, transgenderism, and so forth: the total disappearance of every characteristic of what it means to be human. But this disappearance process started much earlier, with the homogenization of cultures, nations, and races. And television made it possible.

True unity in the Orthodox Church is most certainly not a destruction of racial, national, and regional identities and cultures. The Apostles were sent forth to baptize the nations, not destroy them. Indeed, the Church has given birth to many nations, and under her tutelage, they have acquired quite distinctive and varied characters while yet sharing the same Faith and the same ontological bond in the Holy Mysteries, in the One Body of Christ. The destruction of these varied characters is not the goal of the Church but of those who are against the Church, not of Christ but of the Anti-Christ. Let us ask ourselves: How much of our own character, our own culture, the culture in our homes, is a product of the Faith and of organic Christian culture, and how much does it actually reflect the manufactured anti-culture of the mass media? Let’s be honest, and let’s take steps to recover our true selves.

Point 4: Television greatly increased the power of advertising. The entire advertising industry is inherently evil, because it exists to manufacture superfluous desires and therefore exacerbate sinful passions. To justify advertising, people say that it is a public service, because it puts people in touch with things they need. This, however, is ridiculous. People were able to find what they really needed without the modern advertising industry for thousands of years. The entire purpose of advertising is to create false needs, to create new desires, not point out actual, already-existing needs. Advertising existed before television, of course, but television increased its power and reach immeasurably. Remember, the goal of the AntiChrist elite is to create a “new kind of human being.” The human being created by an endless barrage of TV advertising is someone with perpetually new and ever increasing desires for things he does not need.

As Orthodox Christians, we know that spiritual life, salvation itself, is not possible if we cannot acquire the virtue of temperance, if we cannot curb our desires. Someone immersed in watching commercial television, no matter how well-intentioned, exposes himself to the constant, purposeful inflammation of the most basic illnesses of the soul, the bodily passions, along with pleonexia – greediness, the desire for superfluity, for things one does not need. In such a state, genuine spiritual life is impossible.

Point 5: Television shows and “news” reduce thought to sound-bytes and make people arrogant. Both in television fiction and “reality” shows (which themselves are fictional, because no one behaves normally when being filmed), and in television journalism – news and talk shows – sustained and careful thought is made impossible. Problems are identified and solved in two minutes or less on talk shows, in one half hour in some TV series, and one hour in others. And TV watchers acquire a certain arrogance, a certain pseudo-intellectual swagger about them. They feel very sure of themselves when they have mastered the mindless jargon of television and Internet media journalism and can mouth the latest pronouncement of their favorite talk show host or solve another person’s problems by imitating the make-believe hero of a television drama. After awhile, no one has his own personality – everyone is an imitation television character. We imitate that which we admire, and to know what you admire, ask yourself how many hours you spend watching the phony people on television and how many hours you spend reading about the Life of a Saint, or even about the life of a genuine patriotic hero, or the careful and deep thought of a great writer, or about the history of the great deeds of your own historical culture or nation? You become that which you admire by imitation. That’s the way we’re made. As Orthodox Christians, we are called upon primarily to admire and imitate Christ, the Mother of God, and the Saints, and secondarily to admire and imitate those people and those things that are best, noblest, and highest in secular culture. Is that in fact what you and I are doing on a daily basis?

A Suggestion for Reading: To convince any doubters in the audience that I am not a right-wing nutcase (well, at least not merely a right-wing nutcase), I want to recommend a book written by a secular Jewish left-wing activist named Jerry Mander. He published it in 1978, it is called Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, and it is still considered a classic collection of arguments not simply for limiting TV watching but for eliminating television altogether – literally. Of course, he argues from his leftist-activist viewpoint and ’60’s hippie cultural critique. When he is concerned about television’s effect on religion and culture, it is all about the religions and cultures that hippies care about – Far Eastern pagan religion and rainforest savages and so forth. He pretends that the International Money Power – the IMF, World Bank, the big corporations, et al – fund only “conservative” causes and not his left-wing causes, which is of course ridiculous. But the essence of his argument – that television destroys the body, the mind, thought, culture, and religion, and that the medium is essentially irreformable – is still valid. You can find used copies all over the place for a very low cost. Also, an Orthodox Christian named George Karras wrote an article based on a summary of Mander’s arguments, and you can find it on the popular orthodoxinfo.com website: http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/four-arguments-for-the-elimination-of-television.aspx In one place Karras seems to indicate that he believes in evolutionism, which of course is strange, but on the whole it is an excellent article.

If we are, to a greater or lesser extent, worshippers of the goddess Television, let us cast down our idol and apply our minds and hearts to the knowledge and love of Christ our God. Amen.

Two Important Announcements

As I said above, we now have a little YouTube channel featuring short videos on the Orthodox Faith. The name of our channel is Seventy TimesSeven (we had to elide the second two words to avoid copying another channel’s name), and its purpose is to present successive series of seven short videos on seven topics of Orthodox life: Dogma, Spiritual Life, Worship, Family Life, Morality, History and Current Events, and Today’s Struggle for Orthodoxy (current events in the Orthodox world proper). Go to our playlist at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQb5bdq0KYOcIzJl9dlUFZQ/playlists?view_as=subscriber

Another new venture you may be interested in is the St. John of Damascus Orthodox Education Initiative, a new program sponsored by our North American eparchy of the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of Greece, whose purpose is to provide online courses to Orthodox high school and middle school students whose parents are either homeschooling them, are starting a parish schooling cooperative, or who want to provide an enrichment and corrective to mainstream schooling. Read all about it at our new website: https://orthodoxlearninggoc.com/

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