Like the universe invented in Peter Weir’s 1998 film The Truman Show, in which one man’s life is the basis of a television production designed to sell and gain an audience, the best-known political officials are also actors in the show. Ministers, councillors and spokespersons are more attentive to trending topics than to any data worth taking into account, beyond the social networks to which they are completely hooked.
This is the magic of television programming disguised as politics these days: we know more about Pablo Iglesias’ Galapagar chalet than what Sánchez and the leaders of the Ibex 35 talked about in the heat of the energy hikes.
The more reality TV we consume, the more prone we are to retreat into our bland dwellings and become passive spectators, rather than active participants, as events unfold that should concern us far more than usual.
We don’t even have to change the channel when the subject matter becomes too monotonous. This is taken care of by the programmers, who quickly change the subject to mix in the same magazine a gang rape, a love affair or the squatting of an old lady who went to buy bread and found “a family of squatters” on her way back.
“Living is easy with your eyes closed”, observed John Lennon, and that is exactly what reality TV and social media, conveniently disguised as “politics”, program society to do: navigate the world with eyes closed. Just look at any leisure moment of any child from the age of 3: consuming the broadcasts on the flat screen, because they consume the content previously provided to them by Youtube after tracking their preferences.
Mobile phone users used these devices an average of 4.8 hours a day last year 2021 in Spain, which represents a third of the hours they spend awake in a day, with a growth of 30 percent compared to the previous year. The same is true for television, where an average of 4 hours and 28 minutes are spent.
Reality TV viewers tend to see what they watch as normal. Thus, those who watch programmes characterised by lying, aggression and meanness not only come to see such behaviour as acceptable and entertaining, but end up imitating it. Neighbourly fights or arguments in the workplace are imitations of those on the television news programmes; displays of affection are copied from celebrity hugs on camera, and empathy is only expressed with the winners of the day.
And just as it happened in the past with American Indian films, it is usually the oppressed who are to blame: truck drivers, squatters, dockers, anti-systemic people, etc.
This explains why society is still saddled with political leaderships that have no idea of the needs of the people they claim to represent, and relatively nothing happens. Asking any public official how much they spent on petrol last month, or how much money they spent on food, is asking a lot of people. They don’t know; they are the same bunch of idiots who appear on television no matter what the subject. And as long as the population does not question reality TV, or dynamite it through direct action, we will continue to be in trouble.
TV news is not what happened. Rather, it is what someone thinks is worth reporting.
While there are still some good television journalists, quality investigative journalism has all but disappeared, and what appears under the guise of “news” is mere entertainment.
In order not to fall into the mire of “infotainment” it is necessary to turn off the TV, switch off mobile phone notifications, be aware of the economic and political interests of those who own the most popular media and pay special attention to the language they use.
The language of a television news anchor frames the images and therefore the meaning we derive from the image is often determined by the anchor’s commentary. Television, by its very nature, manipulates viewers. It must never be forgotten that every minute of television has been edited. The viewer does not see the real event but the edited form of the event.
If people continue to sit in their armchairs, comfortably consuming Netflix and not going to the cinema, if they continue to debate by videoconference or WhatsApp groups, instead of in the heat of physical contact and bodily expression, we will continue to walk without return towards a voluntary dictatorship, in which we will patiently await our death after a life without any meaning, surrounded by lack of sleep and the consumption of antidepressants.
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