Kill your television!

A commenter on the Steps to Restoration thread wanted to add “Smash your television!” to the list. I heartily approve, and toward that end I recommend this article by Fr. John D. Fullerton (SSPX, I know) on the evils of television. The author recalls the prophetic warning of Pope Pius XII in Miranda Prorsus:

“For these new possessions and new instruments which are within almost everyone’s grasp, introduce a most powerful influence into men’s minds, both because they can flood them with light, raise them to nobility, adorn them with beauty, and because they can disfigure them by dimming their luster, dishonor them by a process of corruption, and make them subject to uncontrolled passions, according as the subjects presented to the senses in these shows are praiseworthy or reprehensible.

In the past century, advancing technical skill in the field of business frequently had this result: machines, which ought to serve men, when brought into use rather reduced them to a state of slavery and caused grievous harm.

Likewise today, unless the mounting development of technical skill, applied to the diffusion of pictures, sounds and ideas is subjected to the sweet yoke of the law of Christ, it can be the source of countless evils, which appear to be all the more serious, because not only material forces but also minds are unhappily enslaved. And man’s inventions are, to that extent, deprived of those advantages which in the design of God’s Providence ought to be their primary purpose.”

Television might be – in theory – redeemable and put to good use. But practically speaking it is just too late: the whole project is in the sewer. Furthermore, the dangers of the medium itself far outweigh the meagre benefits you might gain from catching a good show now and then. Some people tell me they have a television so they can watch EWTN or documentaries on the History Channel. Along the same lines, I suppose they read Playboy magazine just for the articles. Good luck with that.

12 thoughts on “Kill your television!

  1. When I read John Senior’s “Restoration of Christian Culture”, “Smash the TV” was my cry! I must admit though, we still have it. We get no stations out here without great struggle, so that isn’t even a temptation. (We don’t have cable out here, but that and satellite are out of our budget anyway.)

    But we do use the TV to watch videos. If they were only home videos, that would be one thing, but we do regularly watch (in relative terms: sometimes as much as 1 movie per week, occasionally 2) an old movie now and then.

    Someone gave us a DVD player over 3 years ago and the box has been sitting unopened in my office since then. I won a DVD player in a charity raffle last summer and promptly gave it away, but the other one is still sitting here. My daughter bought a DVD of “Rio Bravo” for me for Christmas to tempt me to get that DVD in operation, but I am still holding out.

    In the grand scheme of things, I wouldn’t miss the TV very much (although I can’t speak for all here)-and we have learned how to entertain ourselves without it-and with much more laughter and interaction to boot.

    Jeff-your 4-part series on television is worth a posting again sometime.


  2. Pingback: Resisting Sense « Uncovering Orthodoxy

  3. Television in my house is like a family member. The idiot box was in many ways my third parent. I still like some shows on TV, so it’s hard to pull away. It’s an odd kind of “relationship”.


  4. Television is a social evil, and it would be a social evil even if the programming were wholesome.

    But I think that cinema is even more threatening. Cinema, through its devilishly well-produced sensory and emotional manipulations in imagery and sound, provides a counterfeit reality so sophisticated that it displaces reality in the mental eye of a man who watches enough of it. Cinema destroys the sacramental imagination; it is the anti-icon.

    When I gaze upon the artistic treasures of Christian civilization, and the marvellous symbolic order they represent, I often think that a cinematic culture would never have produced any of this.


  5. We haven’t had a TV in our home for a long long time. We’ve been married for 17 years, and have never had cable or satellite.

    Its just not that big a deal to live without TV.

    On the other hand, shooting TVs has a certain allure. Try it sometime ;-)


  6. With this reasoning, shouldn’t we also get rid of computers/internet? Whatever good can be found there is outweighed by some truly awful stuff. At least, the internet is participatory–we can say we are trying to bring it under the sweet yoke of Christ. Why should we leave it the domain of the way of death?

    I don’t watch t.v. anymore–I prefer to do my own thinking. T.v. also shuts down thinking pretty rapidly. But what came to mind as I read your post was 9-11: television became a vehicle for news, for communication, for grieving together in some way. The images have become part of our common experience. Is this good or bad?


  7. Mr. Curley: I think yours is a good solution, if you can avoid the temptations of broadcast/cable television and 99% of modern movies. Like you, we still have the old TV, but it is out in the barn, and used primarily for very occasional Andy Griffith reruns or old movies. There is no possibility of broadcast or cable reception. From time to time we will watch something together – and it becomes a much anticipated special family event.

    Mr. Mitsui: Excellent points, and thanks for making them.

    Dr. Kopp: Good to see you here! To paraphrase John Senior, the Church does not condemn all violence, only unjust violence: therefore shooting, smashing, or otherwise maiming one’s television is not a sin.


  8. Joanne: Well, I managed to get through 9-11 without television and don’t consider myself deprived. I think I’ve seen the event on film twice, when away from home. My children have never seen it. As for getting rid of the internet, must you insist on being the voice of my conscience? On balance, the internet is bad news and the world would be better off without it. I’ve tried to quit, but seem to be hopelessly addicted to writing for the small audience a blog provides, and interacting with more like-minded people than I am able to do otherwise. The irony is that, in a world without the internet, there would be other venues open to people like me that are presently closed. Ah, well, my quitting the internet again is always just one confession away, so don’t be surprised when this blog goes up in smoke!


  9. I should add: if one must have a television, I think it best that a television not be the focal point of any room in the home. If we had a television in the house, we would be deprived of the woodstove, or the piano, or the family altar. Each of the latter three are far more important to family life than television.


  10. Ah, well, my quitting the internet again is always just one confession away, so don’t be surprised when this blog goes up in smoke!

    The difference I think between the two is this is an outlet where many that read your blog may be edified as a book may edify, while TV for the most part is passive and as you point out in your article even with good programming is mostly a harmful medium. I do think the internet properly filtered can be useful though and requires some sort of engagement on the part of the user.


  11. In addition to the nature of the internet as an active and participatory medium (which, when used carefully, can be the equivalent of a large but poorly edited encyclopaedia, something to which a television can never aspire); there is also the question of how the content is controlled.

    In television (and even more in cinema) the cost of producing and distributing, with actors and equipment and everything, is so high that creative control is by nature in the hands of a business elite. Even a low-budget film costs millions of dollars, which immediately inclines those financing it to content and methods that sell better.

    The internet is controlled from the bottom up; by ordinary people exercising complete creative control over their own websites. Most of the best content on the internet is provided by amateurs. This is the sort of wide participation that can actually produce things that are meaningful.


  12. Pingback: Getting Rid of Television « Uncovering Orthodoxy

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