Without firing a shot, television has won.
The perpetrators of this audio and visual medium have achieved their ultimate goal of mass manipulation.
Television today is nothing like television in its infancy. In ancient times, television news was news. It was easily distinguishable from opinion, sports and entertainment.
In ancient times, television programming sought to inform, enlighten and entertain.
With three successive generations growing up accustomed to a predominantly liberal slant in television programming and network news – inasmuch as there exists a network TV difference between “programming” and “news” – the medium is the message, as H. Marshall McLuhan said.
“The medium is the message” is a McLuhan term or phrase, meaning that the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a profitable relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived.
If, as Mr. McLuhan said, the medium was the message, more often than not in those early years of television the message was one of good triumphing over evil (Roy Rogers, Gene Autry). The message was one of family values (Father Knows Best, Andy Griffith). The message was the occasional self-deprecating sense of humor (Bob Hope or The Honeymooners).
Somewhere perhaps a quarter of a century ago, more or less, the TV moneychangers realized that there exists a sufficient majority of Americans who will watch ANYTHING on television. (Maybe this shifted into fast-forward following the writers’ strike about 15 years ago. On the other hand, maybe it was deliberate.)
More importantly, these TV moneychangers realized that they could sell advertisements on such drivel that masquerades as entertainment.
Think about it.
For those of you who are old enough, think about television shows from the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s. (For those of you with more youthful brains, think of the TV Land station.)
Back then, most 30-minute shows were family oriented and rarely, if ever, caused parental concerns – at least not before 10 p.m. Moreover, the shows’ commercials were not purchased by hawkers of every pharmaceutical known to man. Today, parents often worry more about the contents of the commercials than the show – and with good reason.
One of my favorite television shows and one which I, regrettably, didn’t watch often enough in its early years was “Firing Line.”
“Firing Line” was on TV from 1966 until December 1999. I wish TV Land (or PBS) would pick it up, but I’m not holding my breath.
“Firing Line” was a current affairs show founded and hosted by conservative William F. Buckley, Jr., founder and publisher of National Review.
With 1,500 episodes over a 33-year period, “Firing Line” was the longest-running such show in television history with a single host.
Weekly Standard editor William Kristol described Bill Buckley’s approach to the show this way: “Buckley really believes that in order to convince, you have to debate and not just preach, which of course means risking the possibility that someone will beat you in debate.”
Few ever did. Buckley was, of course, the master at debate.
Among the more well-known guests on “Firing Line” were Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Margaret Thatcher, Ron Paul, John Kenneth Galbraith, Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell, Muhammad Ali, Billy Graham, Jesse Jackson, Henry Kissinger, Groucho Marx (no kidding) and Tom Wolfe.
Thanks to The Hoover Institution, which has archived many of the “Firing Line” episodes, I recently watched former Sen. Sam Ervin (D-North Carolina) moderate a debate on the Panama Canal treaty between Buckley (pro) and Reagan (con).
Buckley wrote in his quasi-autobiography, “Miles Gone By,” “The stand I took (in 1977) is still cited as evidence of my unreliability as a conservative.”
(Buckley also pointed out that “true” conservatives Barry Goldwater and John Wayne agreed with Reagan.)
But that’s not the point. The point is that once upon a time in America we had thoughtful, educational, and insightful television. In 2014, we have television “shows” called “Lizard Lick Towing,” “Appalachian Outlaws” and “Honey Bo-Bo” – or some (un)reasonable facsimile thereof.
Too much exposure to such nonsense is akin to one’s brain on meth. (Illegally manufactured methamphetamine.)
For the past 25 years or so, the message of most media has been left-leaning. Family values are old-fashioned. Wholesome sitcoms are passé. Good winning over evil is boring. You know the drill.
Which brings us to this week’s news that, in the words of journalist Drew Zahn: “Like David versus Goliath, an upstart Christian film has shocked the world by winning an unlikely victory in the form of an Academy Award nomination.”
“Alone Yet Not Alone” was performed by Joni Eareckson Tada and written by Dennis Spiegel and Bruce Broughton.
“I so resonate with the words, with the tune, the melody,” Joni Eareckson Tada said of “Alone Yet Not Alone.”
“Maybe it’s because I’m a quadriplegic, maybe because I sit down in a ‘stand up’ world and sometimes I can feel a little alone. And so to sing it from the heart and to sing it with that kind of personal passion, I hope does the melody and the lyrics proud.”
What I’d like to know is this: Why did I have to go to World Net Daily to read about “Alone Yet Not Alone” and why have most network television stations avoided the song and its spiritual message?
After three decades in mass media, I think I know the answers.
Rory Ryan is Senior Editor, North American Desk, at Paperitalo Publications and the owner of The Highland County Press in Hillsboro, Ohio. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.