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Written on April 2, 2005, and categorized as Secret and Invisible.
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I wouldn’t say I was a proud man, I am just too damn funky for that, but I pride myself on several things. One of them is sitting here, right in front of me now. The television set. I am not watching it. I am the kind of person to turn on a TV to watch a program, then turn it off. Call me mad, but that’s what I do. I even hit mute during the ads.

Nudity, passionate dialogue, ecstatic applause, urgent commentary, dramatic music, fireball explosions, adverts, all mean nothing to me. You see, TV can only keep me if I give it my attention, which is something I guard jealously, like a farmer guards his prize parsnip.

I read that film and TV are USA’s biggest export, yet it’s clear from the outside that American mass media in general, and television in particular, is responsible for all known evils. Obesity, gun crime, racism, drugs, sexually transmitted diseases, the deterioration of “family values”, you name it, either left or right accuse program makers, the networks, and each other of failing to provide. More choice is no choice. Public service is a foreign concept. Shopping channels, porn channels, music channels, news channels, all of it dumbed down, partial and corrupt. The biggest difference being that over here (Europe) we can generally spot the bias or the lack of hard information, whereas in America, the vast majority of the population seem to trust it.

This is the truly shocking part about it. Politicians use TV as adeptly as a table magician uses a deck of cards. While the population gawps at some emotive but utterly minor life-or-death drama, really bad news, about Iraq, about the retaliatory 15% tax the rest of the industrialised world has just slapped on all US exports, about carbon emissions rising, goes unnoticed.

Thankfully, American musicians being the literate intelligent and expressive folk they are, have got this national obsession taped.

I’m The Slime

I am gross and perverted
I’m obsessed ‘n deranged
I have existed for years
But very little has changed
I’m the tool of the Government
And industry too
For I am destined to rule
And regulate you

I may be vile and pernicious
But you can’t look away
I make you think I’m delicious
With the stuff that I say
I’m the best you can get
Have you guessed me yet?
I’m the slime oozin’ out
From your TV set

You will obey me while I lead you
And eat the garbage that I feed you
Until the day that we don’t need you
Don’t go for help . . . no one will heed you
Your mind is totally controlled
It has been stuffed into my mold
And you will do as you are told
Until the rights to you are sold

That’s right, folks . . .
Don’t touch that dial

Well, I am the slime from your video
Oozin’ along on your livin’ room floor

I am the slime from your video
Can’t stop the slime, people, lookit me go

I am the slime from your video
Oozin’ along on your livin’ room floor

I am the slime from your video
Can’t stop the slime, people, lookit me go

Frank Zappa

Now we have trapped the Beast, we are still witnessing some movement in the limbs. We simply are not sure if this indicates pain or pleasure, death throes or the orgasm of confinement. It may require a breeding program to converge it with new forms of media, but we do not sufficient information at this point to make that judgement. As it thrashes around, we assume it will continue to be dangerous, and we will attempt to prevent it replicating.

Mr Scott-Heron, please, explain how it is.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat
hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie
Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds
thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, Brother.

There will be no pictures of you and Willie May
pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,
or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance.
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
or report from 29 districts.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being
run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process.
There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy
Wilkens strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and
Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the proper occasion.

Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville
Junction will no longer be so damned relevant, and
women will not care if Dick finally gets down with
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no highlights on the eleven o’clock
news and no pictures of hairy armed women
liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose.
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb,
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
Jones, Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be right back after a message
bbout a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.

Gil Scott-Heron

People tell me that there is a thing called a TiVo, which collects TV like a bee collects nectar, removing the impurities and distilling it into the finest fragrant televisual honey, to be spread upon the bread of your leisure time when you experience gogglebox hunger. I don’t believe this can possibly be true. Surely, this can only be concentrating the endless stream of TV into easy-to-swallow tasteless pre-wrapped pellets, which will pass painlessly through your mental digestive system, giving no dangerous cultural indigestion whatsoever? And if it does have a taste, is this not more insidious, separating the clots from the clot-nots, the tiny amount of cream from the gallons of rancid milk, congesting our mental arteries with The Sopranos and Six Feet Under and The Simpsons, and for the elderly and incontinent, re-runs of M.A.S.H.?

We’ll be right back after this break:

Television, the Drug of the Nation

one nation
under God
has turned into
one nation under the influence
of one drug

[chorus:]
Television, the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation
(2x)

T.V., it
satellite links
our United States of Unconsciousness
Apathetic therapeutic and extremely addictive
The methadone metronome pumping out
150 channels 24 hours a day
you can flip through all of them
and still there’s nothing worth watching
T.V. is the reason why less than 10 per cent of our
Nation reads books daily
Why most people think Central Amerika
means Kansas
Socialism means unamerican
and Apartheid is a new headache remedy
absorbed in it’s world it’s so hard to find us
It shapes our mind the most
maybe the mother of our Nation
should remind us
that we’re sitting too close to…

[Chorus:]
Television, the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation
(2x)

T.V. is
the stomping ground for political candidates
Where bears in the woods
are chased by Grecian Formula’d
bald eagles
T.V. is mechanized politic’s
remote control over the masses
co-sponsored by environmentally safe gases
watch for the PBS special
It’s the perpetuation of the two party system
where image takes precedence over wisdom
Where sound bite politics are served to
the fastfood culture
Where straight teeth in your mouth
are more important than the words
that come out of it
Race baiting is the way to get selected
Willie Horton or
Will he not get elected on…

[Chorus:]
Television, the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation
(2x)

T.V., is it the reflector or the director?
Does it imitate us
or do we imitate it
because a child watches 1500 murders before he’s
twelve years old and we wonder why we’ve created
a Jason generation that learns to laugh
rather than to abhor the horror
T.V. is the place where
armchair generals and quarterbacks can
experience first hand
the excitement of warfare
as the theme song is sung in the background
Sugar sweet sitcoms
that leave us with a bad actor taste while
pop stars metamorphosize into soda pop stars
You saw the video
You heard the soundtrack
Well now go buy the soft drink
Well, the onla cola that I support
would be a union C.O.L.A.(Cost Of Living Allowance)
On television

[Chorus:]
Television, the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation
(2x)

Back again, “New and improved”
We return to our irregularly programmed schedule
hidden cleverly between heavy breasted
beer and car commercials
CNNESPNABCTNT but mostly B.S.
Where oxymoronic language like
“virtually spotless”, “fresh frozen”
“light yet filling” and “military intelligence”
have become standard
T.V. is the place where phrases are redefined
like “recession” to “necessary downturn”
“Crude oil” on a beach to “mousse”
“Civilian death” to “collateral damages”
and being killed by your own Army
is now called “friendly fire”
T.V. is the place where the pursuit
of happiness has become the pursuit of
trivia
Where toothpaste and cars have become
sex objects
Where imagination is sucked out of children
by a cathode ray nipple
T.V. is the only wet nurse
that would create a cripple

[Chorus:]
Television, the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation
(4x)

Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy

For three generations, television has kept us spellbound and passive like primitives in front of the sacrificial fire. Viewing figures do not justify the endless flickering supply of junk TV food served daily. Without some kind of non-commercial standard, common denominators will surely descend lower. My deeper concern is that it’s not just BAD television that finally will prove to have destroyed the minds of millions, but television itself.

What revolts me the most about TV, all of it from everywhere, is the sanctimonious attitude of it’s practitioners. With grandiose claims to influence, inform, even lead, public opinion, the assumption in the mind of program makers and networks of their own relevance, and of the sublime importance of television in culture, goes largely unchallenged. Not for much longer, though. Another screen is taking over. Rise up with your DV cams and your podcasts, rise, and syndicate.

Of course, I’ll be watching at 7pm tonight for episode 2 of Dr Who. But that’s different. It’s made by the BBC, at least, and it’ll be off again when it finishes.

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This thing has 2 Comments

  1. Kate Ford
    Posted 3 April, 2005 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    As an American I totally agree with you. As another person that despises tv, I agree again. The crap they pile out over here is just unreal. I for one am sick of it. I watch only what I want to watch and I also use the mute button regularly. Thanks for addressing this.

  2. transience
    Posted 4 April, 2005 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    i haven’t watched the telly in months. i find that it is like organized religion and that too many people let it do the thinking for them. i miss a lot of swanky commercials, but it is a small price i have to pay for keeping the voice of my own reason alive.

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