I got rid of my TV set a few months ago. It was the culmination of a long process of deepening disillusionment.
I’ve long been aware that television is a propaganda medium. But over the past few years, the propaganda seems to have been becoming more and more blatant and ubiquitous.
The one issue that has vexed me more than any other over the past two years has been the smoking ban which has so effectively demolished my social life. That’s been a big event. I can’t remember the last time my social life was dismembered that way. In fact, it’s never, ever happened before. And it’s not just me who has been experiencing this complete dislocation. There are plenty of other people who have been going through the same thing. I know quite a few of them personally, although of course I don’t see much of them these days, now that our pub meeting places have become unsocial, drab no-go areas.
But do you see any reporting of the smoking ban and its effects on TV, or hear it on the radio? You hear bugger all about it, that’s what you hear. In Britain’s mass media, the smoking ban was a complete non-event. On 1 July 2007, when the ban came into force, I watched the news, imagining that the ban would be the headline. It wasn’t. It barely got a brief mention. It’s hardly been mentioned since. Except to say what a great success it is, and how absolutely everybody loves it, and wants to see more things banned.
So, here’s the biggest event in my life for the past two years, and one that is affecting millions of people much like it’s affecting me, and it’s not newsworthy.
One can only wonder what is newsworthy, if this isn’t. They report earthquakes all over the world, so why don’t they report smoking bans? More and more I think that what goes to make up the news in the news media is simply whatever they want to be news.
I suppose that if if some TV news editor were to explain to me how it works, he’d probably say something like, "Look, Frank, we don’t report little personal tragedies like yours. We can’t report every single failed marriage or broken friendship or pub closure. We report the big tragedies. The airliner crashes. The motorway pile-ups. The stock market collapses. Things that affect a lot of people a lot. Things that kill people." And I’d say, "Yes, I know that. It’s not me I want you to report. This isn’t about just me. And I know that smoking bans don’t kill people like earthquakes do. But they still have ill effects on the lives of billions of people, just like swine flu has ill effects on millions of people. With swine flu, mostly they’ll just feel a bit unwell for a few days, and then get over it. You report that. You report the numbers of people who’ve caught it. Why don’t you report this smoking ban plague that has been spreading all over the world. I’ve been sick with it for two whole years. It’s not something that wears off after a few days." And he’ll say, "Well, I think you’re unusual. I personally don’t know anybody who feels that way in my wine bar. Anyway, I must go. There’s a big news story breaking. Some footballer’s broken his foot."
It’s not just smoking bans. The news generally just seems to be generally becoming more and more trivialised. It has become its own separate reality, much like the ‘reality’ TV shows these days portray a completely artificial reality. And the rest of it is stupid quiz shows, or celebrity chefs telling people how to cook, or doctors telling them how to keep fit, or architects telling them how to renovate their houses. Who wants to watch this dross? Now and then they have a good documentary about something. But the propaganda creeps into them too. The sight of a few clouds or mountains or animals is the regular cue for a reference to the global warming which is supposed to be killing us all.
Our news media doesn’t work. It may as well be broadcasting white noise. Anyone who wants to watch TV is someone who just wants to be lied to, and bullied, and propagandised.
I’ve had enough.