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Amusing Ourselves To Death
Transcript of Amusing Ourselves To Death
The Entertainment Industry
Many people suppose that
entertainment-media is harmless and simply
a form of relaxation and amusement.
Amusing Ourselves to Death
This has proven to be a possibly hazardous misconception.
It appears that entertainment is not at all
a neutral medium.
This idea that certain forms of media influence society and normative values is supported by some of our world's greatest thought leaders.
Plato said (speaking specifically of theater and music) that when the modes of entertainment change, the fundamental laws of the state always change with them.
Not A New Idea
The idea is thematic throughout the course of history. Plato and Aristotle, Sigmund Freud and his nephew, and modern statesman and politician Zbigniew Brzezinski all lend their support based on their individual findings.
Brzezinski, who serves in the whitehouse under President Obama, has spoken transparently of broadcasting (a form of media) as being responsible for warping society's government fundamentals. He speaks specifically of television as being a 'democratic contradiction', since it is monopolized by a select few, who, through the use of media, shape our society.
Aristotle and Plato shared views
on the evidence of media affecting
philosphical beliefs and education.
In 1992, Dr. Brandon S. Centerwall, from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington, reported on a study that took place in an anonymous town in Ontario, which was nicknamed “Notel” for privacy purposes.
This town was late in acquiring television.
The impact of television on this virgin
community was investigated using two similar
communities that already had television.
Fourty five first- and second-grade students
were observed over a period of two years for
rates of noxious physical aggression.
Rates of physical aggression did not change significantly among the children in the two control communities. However, two years after the introduction of television, rates of physical aggression among children in “Notel” had increased by 160% .
This study is highly significant because it establishes that the medium of television has an impact with respect to increase of violence, regardless of content.
Still, this remained an observation and no explanation revealed itself as to why the effects of the medium were so dramatic. Recently, technology has advanced and scientists have discovered the reason for the data.
Certain forms of media interact
neurophysiologicaly with the frontal lobe
of the human brain.
This was due to one of the most celebrated cases in the history of medicine, Phineas Gage. He was a railroad worker in the mid eighteen hundreds who sustained extensive trauma to his frontal lobe by a dynamite-propelled, iron rod.
The Frontal Lobe
As early as the 1800's there was a recognition that the frontal lobe played a significant role with respect to personality, self-control and executive function.
The emotional and moral change in Phineas Gage was so profound as to entirely transform his behavior, thought process, and essentially, his personality. He was uncontrollable after the accident and exceedingly violent.
Phineas Gage was the first patient to
suggest a link between
personality and the
functions of the
Gamma waves (The fastest documented brainwave frequency range), are considered the brain’s information and sensory-binding brainwaves.
Accountable for the complete transformation observed in Gage and the dramatic "recovery" of psychiatric patients are very short brainwaves called Gamma waves, identified only in the frontal lobe.
This means that the brainwave
is responsible for linking and
processing information from
all parts of the brain.
Gamma waves while drawing
Gamma waves while reading
Gamma Waves while watching television
High amounts of Gamma
Brainwave activity have
been associated with high
levels of intelligence,
compassion, high levels
of self-control, and
feelings of natural
Gamma Brain Waves have also been linked to having a great memory and an increased perception of reality.
Science indicates that the frontal lobe shuts down while watching entertainment television and movies and during exposure to certain other forms of media.
This is because unrelated scenes resulting from cuts, pans, zooms, and scene changes trigger an orienting response in the brain that flat-lines the gamma wave.
Seth Geiger, who
holds a Ph.D. and
a Master's degree in
and Byron Reeves, Professor in the
Department of Communication at Stanford
University provide more insight
about television and the
They state that “when new information builds on previous information, the task of combining the two is relatively easy. However, when expectations are violated and unrelated information is presented, viewers must reorient to incorporate this new information."
It is this reorienting response that flat-lines the Gamma Wave.
Television viewers treat structure and content as interdependent dimensions, relying on visual structure and content for the attribution of meaning. However, thse researchers found that the cut itself automatically produces a data-driven response to orient and attend to the new information. The basis for this response is a perceived mismatch between prior and current information.
In layman's terms, this means that an action thriller film is going to be more compelling than a documentary or lecture film because of the neurophysiological response of the human brain to cuts, pans, zooms, and other edits.
as opposed to...
Grieger and Reeves, speaking of the orienting response to entertainment-television, concluded that “attention to related sequences will decrease over time, whereas attention to unrelated sequences should remain constant over time."
This may partly explain common viewer remarks such as:
“If a television is on, I just can't keep my eyes off it!”
“I feel hypnotized by the television.”
The Orienting Response
Robert Kubey, professor of Journalism and Media Studies, and director at the Center for Media Studies at Rutgers University, and Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian psychology professor, also write on the orienting response and its affects on addiction with regards to entertainment-media.
“for growing numbers of people, the life they lead online may often seem more important, more immediate and more intense than the life they lead face-to-face."
This means that when an individual is watching certain forms of media, their gamma wave is not pulling all the information together and processing. Although there is a full intellectual comprehension of the information, there is no connection between the intellectual context and the moral context.
"It is the form, not the content of television that is unique."
Further, research shows that the Gamma wave is necessary in order for the burst of language which occurs between the ages of thirteen and thirty-six months.
Australia has taken this scientific discovery seriously and drafted legislation prohibiting daycare centers form exposing children in daycare centers under the age of two to television.
In summary, the information presented comprises a warning to society. Entertainment television and movies are not innocuous modes of relaxation.
When entertainment-media becomes a habit that interferes with the ability to grow, learn and to lead an active life, then it constitutes a kind of dependence that should be taken seriously.
It is clear that entertainment television and movies have profound effects on the frontal lobe, and therefore are well able to manipulate society's cultural and belief systems.
However, what makes
this information even more
relevant (a clarion call, really)
is the fact that society is spending
considerable amounts of time engaged
in viewing entertainment-media.
A report released by Reuters in 2010,
based on 2009 findings, stated that
“Americans now watch about
35 hours of TV per week."
That is 1,825 hours a year, so that an individual who has watched television over a period of 40 years, will have on the average spent 73,000 hours watching television.
To put that into perspective, that is around 3,000 days; approximately 8 years!
That is over 20% of their life lived as a modern-day Phineas Gage; with compromised frontal lobe activity.
It is also over 20% of their life spent being educated through the media with respect to normative values.
Beginning with Plato and Aristotle...
...and continuing on up through Phineas Gage, Bernays, Brzezinski, and many others, there is an acknowledgement that entertainment-media has the power to shape society's normative values, and that, in effect...
...the underlying normative values of a society shape its legal constitutions.
This humorous informercial is slightly less
amusing when one discovers that
this "frontal Lobotomy" was a very real procedure.
Walter J. Freeman, a psychiatrist hungry for fame, championed one of the century's most infamous procedures.
Freeman did, in fact, render patients unconscious through the use of electric shocks. A towel was then held over one half of the patient's face, while Freeman peeled back the eyelid, inserted the ice pick (the first ones that they used came right out of their kichen drawer!) into the top of the patient's eye, and with a hammer, tapped through to the brain, wiggled it about, enough to sever the frontal lobes, withdrew it, and when the paient came to , he or she would be given dark glasses to hide the black eyes they had been given. The whole procedure took three to four minutes.
Spurred on by Dr. Freeman, the number of lobotomies performed annually soared from 150 in 1945 to over 5,000 in 1949.
Despite the known side effects, there seeemd to be an endless supply of willing patients.
If Housewives found their early 1950's existance too depressing for words, why, Freeman had
a solution that would get them trhough their day, happy as a little clams. If children were misbehaving (a condition known today as hyperactivity disorder), why, they might need a lobotomy.
The Lobotomy achieved:
Post-operative blunting of the personality
lack of tact or discipline
This is another shocking example showing how personality and individuality is cradled in the frontal lobes.