A selection of letters about TV turnoff global campaign

To Those Who are Perhaps More Like Me than Others:
I am 18 years old and have not had access to television programs since I was 16. I’ve never really wanted to after realizing there was not anything worth watching. A few things about myself: I will be graduating from high school this year with a cumulative GPA of 3.00. I have held a 3.5 for the past year and it is steadily rising. I work 39 hours a week at the neighborhood drug store while running cross-country in my spare time. I was asked by my friends what I do in my spare time, “What form of release from the pressures of school, parents, etc.” I replied in a matter-of-fact tone that I live. I. Sloan, Ocala Fla.

White Dot:
The county has provided every classroom in our elementary school with a TV. What a waste! I found that the majority of teachers were letting students watch “Hollywood” movies on a daily basis. My fifth-grader watched more than 15 full feature films during her class year — this at a National School of “Excellence.” After letters, phone calls and a meeting with the principal, I finally had the TVs turned off (except for instructional videos). D.Taylor, Marietta Ga.

White Dot:
In the fall of 1974 [my wife] and I decided to implement a survey of our family’s TV habits. Unknown to the six children we faithfully recorded each minute the set was on and who was in the audience for a month.We were above the national average of 5.6 hours per day. We decided to develop a plan to control our TV habit and eliminate a lot of hours in favor of family unity. Two months later I accepted work in Belgium. Since we couldn’t understand the language, all of the programming fell on deaf ears. We found two English channels, but they provided a few hours per week of U.S. programming. Then something began to happen: The children forgot TV in favor of Eurpoean activities like bike riding, soccer and hiking. We are convinced that our children’s progress in reading, music and science there in private schools, plus the absence of TV were deciding factors that blessed them later. We know that we all benefitted. We are re-committing to this lesson learned more than 20 years ago through the encouragement of your publication. R & J. Harris, Bountiful, Utah

White Dot:
The more I think about computers and your Web site, the more I’m sure it will degrade the purity of “no TV” doctrine (the White Dot). A computer monitor is just another TV, since much TV and movie programming comes up on computers. It’s best to jettison the computer screen and Web site, to keep your grand effort pure. The compromise at present would rear its ugly head sooner or later and byte (bite) you. (You may be accused later of getting rid of the “old” TV to help bring in the more damaging “new” TV.) James Sorrell, Boise Idaho

White Dot:
I am kind of a disciple of Jerry Mander. I am 70 years old, as is my wife. I am particularly turned off by TV news. Instead of real news, what is offered is an “entertainment of terrible happenings” carefully edited to maximize entertainment value and carefully omitting any background to provide understanding of why these things are happening. The content is cleverly manipulated to serve the intersts of the “powers that be.” I remember during the Vietnam era there were countless marches and demonstrations agains the war but on the TV news any demonstrators shown would always include those bearing placards of the “Young Communists League” etc., in order to grossly mislead the public. TV news is real news to about the extent that commercials are real news. R.T. Gabbert, Chicago

White Dot:
What I find truly amazing is the number of friends who I have told that my wife and I dont watch TV and yet they still ask if I saw such-and-such show last night! I guess there must be some type of subconscious block that does not allow TV addicts to acknowledge the fact that there are those of us who live life TV-free. R. Ziolkowski Jr., Crystal Lake, Ill.

White Dot:
I have not had a TV or seen a program (except I went next door to see Nixon’s resignation speech) for 28 years and haven’t missed it at all. A Reader

White Dot:
Since I work the 3pm to 11 pm shift at work, I miss “prime time’ completely, and pretty much the only thing on when I get home are infomercials and old reruns, all of which are well worth skipping. The amazing thing is, I don’t miss it. M. Campbell, Milwaukee

White Dot:
I agree fully with the reader who feels that a website would be contrary to the spirit and philosophy of “no TV.” This whole website business is indeed the new TV and has in common with the old TV the relentless way in which it soon becomes an end in itself. The idea should be ditched. Then, if I may be permitted two comments in one letter, I see you have printed the “information” that Bette Midler and Madonna do not permit their children to watch television. Do you really believe this, coming as it does from — well, people like that? I think it’s a put-on and I think you swallowed it. A. Cosnow, Glencoe, Ill.

White Dot:
We raised our daughters — now age 28 and 26 — without TV. We just never bought one. It is amazing how many people will try to give you a TV when they know you don’t have one. When they were younger and had paper routes they threatened to buy a TV. I decided not to worry about it until they raised the money. They never did. Once my sister’s daughter (age 6) asked her grandmother (b. 1908) what her favorite TV shows had been when she was a little girl. My mother replied “None, there was no TV then — pause — and there wasn’t even any radio.” Granddaughter: “Gosh, Grandma, what did you DO?” M. Milhous, Ft. Collins, Colo.

White Dot:
Help me please! I find myself unable to look away, paralyzed as I bask in the blue glow of my master. I have been beginning to suspect that it doesn’t love me and care about me as I felt before. You are right. Hawkeye and Trapper really don’t care about me. My kids watch The Waltons every day. This is a “good” show, a nice show. But, instead of spending time being a close family we just watch one. I realize now that the Waltons never watch TV! Help me be alive again. Help me experience life and not just “watch” it. P. Lavigne (by e-mail)

White Dot:
Your article “Static Symbol” about where people physically put their TVs could stand this updating: starting next year when digital television arrives, the average TV set is going to get much larger — actually much wider — than what’s out there today. The superior image is supposed to push consumers into buying giant-sized sets. Even modest sets will be wider that what’s currently out there. By 2006 all sets sold in this country should be HDTV, so that new Scandinavian entertainment center you just plunked down thousands for may be less attractive in a few years. Of course, everyone will have to buy a new TV and VCR too, since by 2006 (as it currently stands) all TV programming will be delivered digitally, making analog equipment non-functional. Keep swimming against the tide. If there’s ever anything good on television I’ll let you know. PJ Bednarski, editor, Electronic Media

White Dot:
We had a brief correspondence about my idea of doing a dissertation project on the psychological effects of TV viewing vs. abstention. Regretfully, I’ve abandoned the idea and have begun another project. As I dug deeper into the effects-of-TV literature and writing up a prospectus for my project, a lot of problems arose that seemed insurmountable. The possibility of getting college students to voluntarily refrain from or cut back on their TV viewing for any substantial period of time seemed pretty slim. Realistically, I would have had to limit the abstention period to a week or maybe two, but two would be really pushing it. All sorts of selection bias and what they call “demand characteristics” would creep in as most participants would likely balk at the idea of giving up TV. So the outcomes I started envisioning were: at best, giving up TV did show some positive gains but the methodological flaws would undermine the results substantially; at worst, the short-term abstention from TV might well cause greater short-term distress, which would lead to a conclusion that TV is good for people! I didn’t want to do a study where that was a very possible outcome. I’m guessing that people who give up TV (even voluntarily) have an adjustment period where they have to figure out what to do with themselves, so there is probably a short-term distress period to get through before a long-term gain. This could be demonstrated in a study, but not without some heavy funding as an inducement to participants to give up TV for…2 months? 6 months? How long before the benefits become apparent? I’m sure it varies from person to person, but my guess is that for college students who are giving it up only because of a psych study, it would be more than 2 weeks. Anyway, I hope somebody does this at some point, and I hope they are in touch with you. J. Chamberlain, Silver Spg., Md.

White Dot:
Please send me your newsletter and any extra back issues. My husband and I need all the support we can get in this area of TV. Our seven sons watch way too much. Today, we are removing the TV to rebuild the structure of our home. Thanks for listening. Deb O’Reilly, Ralston, Nebraska

White Dot:
Last night my wife and I were invited to the mansion of a colleague to see a movie on his posh projection system (movie-size screen, Dolby sound.) He has taken into his home a divorced woman with two children, (10 and 14). We were supposed to watch Orson Welles MacBeth; but then he said he’d been outvoted by the children. (They have the system to watch every day; he rarely has any company. They made this demand just to show us they’re in charge.) We watched instead The Usual Suspects which involved endless slaughter, including burned bodies shown up close, and so on. After a half hour of slaughter I said, “These children should not be watching this show.” The response was that the children had seen it already and wanted to see it again. I said, “I’m leaving. I will not watch this movie with children.” My wife joined me reluctantly. She deplored my bad manners… D. Lyons, Fort Collins, Colo.

White Dot:
I am pleased to report that one week ago I took delivery of Get a Life: The Little Red Book of the White Dot Anti-Television Movement and after reading it was able to locate the “off” button on my TV (elusive little thing!) I am now in the process of getting back my life. It is costing me a fortune in stamps as I am catching up on those long overdue letters to my friends and family!) Also, the local library’s lending figures have gone up by an incredible leap of 3. (Three novels in one week — not bad!) The old acoustic guitar that I learned to play “Proud Mary” on in the seventies has had a bit of a dust down and will be going to a nice man in Bognor Regis to be restrung this weekend and I have a sneaking feeling that the local Adult Education prospectus will have an important part to play in my future TV-Free life when it is published next month.I intend to live my life now, not by “remote control” but by first hand experience. Linda Kennedy, Worthing, England

White Dot:
My wife and I watched a debate last night on Australian television between David Burke (co-author of Get A Life) and a couple of Australian mass media magnates. We were very nearly sick. David was polite, well-spoken, friendly and calm as he presented his case. The media junkies fired verbal assault after assault, complete with trite personal insults – not bad for a person they’d never met and didn’t know. They labelled him as a born-again addict, a modern day Luddite, and accused him of being incredibly boring – all because he didn’t watch television. David just smiled – he obviously didn’t feel the need to lower himself to their level. I’d always thought of the anti-TV crowd as being a little bit odd, and of making a lot of noise about nothing. Something about David’s calm demeanour and secret smiles made me start to wonder, and the fear in the eyes of the TV vampires made me more than a little unnerved. What if this guy was right? The pro-television preachers told of the benefits of television, and stated that it actually broadened the minds of children. David cited a couple of reseach programs into attention deficit disorder and the delayed acqusition of language and their links to television. When he asked the television pushers where their evidence was, they said that they didn’t want to get into that sort of argument. When the insults from a female broadcasting guru got too much for our stomachs, we turned the TV off. We would have liked to have watched the whole debate, but we were both raging fit to burst. We sat down and talked about it. We were still talking about it when we went to bed. We’ve just realised that we work between eight and ten hours a day so that we can spend another five or six hours watching television. We don’t have lives – we have a TV that lives for us. We eat our meals in front of it. Monday’s newspaper is our most read – it has the TV guide in it. We cut telephone calls with distant family short when a must-see show comes on. Most of the time we don’t even have a show in mind when we turn on – we just suck in whatever happens to be on at the time for hours on end. Our living room is a maze of couches and cables, all geared towards worshipping the box. Our lives are organised around television, and yet we both knew we hate it with every fibre of our being. We keep watching anyway. We’re addicted. Enough is enough. We’re actually going to get a life. We’ve decided the spend the five hours a night we spend in front of the box reading, listening to music, going out to dinner, playing with our cat, taking courses at the local college, cooking, making love, playing chess, enjoying the company of friends and family. We might even end up gutting our 68cm set and turning it into an aquarium. We’re not going to watch lifestyle shows where they make furniture and cook with exotic ingredients and say oh, how lovely – we’re going to buy cookbooks and a bandsaw, spend some time browsing the local fresh food markets and hardware stores and bloody do it for ourselves. Monica, Chandler, Phoebe and the rest of the gang can rot in hell. We’re going to tape South Park and tell ourselves we’re watch it some day when it’s raining and the buses are on strike. Thanks for giving us eleven years of our life back – we’ll make sure that when we have kids, they won’t make the same mistake we have. Cheers! Matt, Australia

White Dot:
Hi !!! You’re crazy and I really like You. I found your (web) page today and I write now. I’m from Poland, I study psychology and I’m interested in TV influence. Nowadays, in Poland, the problem with TV is getting bigger and bigger. People love TV and believe TV. I hate TV and I read about it and I talk with friends. Now, in Poland people are manipulated by TV and they don’t realize it at all. Young children watch TV, Play computer and then… This problem is maybe not so big as it is in USA or UK, but it is started. We have “free Television” since 10 years. If you could, please send me some articles, news, researches or anything that enrich my knowledge about TV. Thank You very much. PS. I’d like to correspond or cooperate with you. [Readers, how about dropping him a line?] Mirek Urban UL. SKIERKI 1/191 20 – 601 LUBLIN POLAND

White Dot:
We are a TV-Free family, have been for 6 years now. We are now parents of a 4-month old daughter named Kate, and want to connect with other TV-Free families out there. How do we do it? Can you help? S. Brenner, Ellsworth, Maine [See David Burke’s column, p. 11, Ed.]

White Dot:
I realize that your organization advocates watching less television, but I am hoping that you will be able to help me. When I was younger, I used to enjoy watching the white dot disappear at the end of the day’s broadcasting. Do you know where I could get a video copy of the disappearing white dot? Lea Tucker, Honiton, England

White Dot:
I’m a squash player who threw his TV set away five years ago. I was talking to (Squash Champion) David Woodman the other night. He played in the World Juniors at Princeton in 98. We came to the conclusion that the answer isn’t in getting squash on TV. The answer is getting TV viewers off their big fat arses and onto squash courts!!! Paul Baggott, Britain

White Dot:
I have not owned a television in 30 years. Nor do I allow one over my threshold. I worry about virtual reality taking over civilization. I would like to share ideas with others who elect to live without television. JeffryRSmith@AOL.com

White Dot:
I wholeheartedly support you. I don’t mean to say that TV is all in all a bad thing, but is overly used and time-consuming and braincell-damaging for those who do overuse it. White Dot is a good idea. It creates more of a conversation around it and TV becomes more controversial. I hope that, ultimately, people will come around and realize that they’re spending more time with a piece of furniture than with other people.

Source: Cineoculto.com