"There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers." ~ Richard Feynman
The Fake TV Challenge
By B.R. Merrick
Exclusive to STR
In spite of my opposition to The War on Certain Kinds of Drugs, I wish to inaugurate a new war against another one. I have good reasons for doing so. This drug is cheap. It is everywhere. It is insidious. Once it is in your bloodstream, it is nearly impossible to extricate. It becomes infused with the cells of your body, and permanently damages the brain. The FDA refuses to do anything about it. Tellingly, given its death-grip on those who become addicted, it's one drug that the government won't condemn, in spite of their throwing billions of dollars at narcotics that are far less powerful, though not nearly as subtle. I am a recovering addict, and it practically destroyed my life. Everybody I know takes it. There are no recovery groups to help rehabilitate anyone who wishes to stop. If your children start on it, I can virtually guarantee that they will never be rid of their desperate need for it. (My sister tried that, to the howls of kiddie-withdrawal.) Like the death-oriented government of Great Britain flooding China with opium in order to control the populace, this invisible drug, that cannot be tasted or smelled, has flooded the land mass on which you live, thanks in large part to the death-oriented government of Great America. It now controls virtually everyone you meet. I shall give you just one example of how it controls men who are smarter -- and better researchers -- than I.
At the invaluable Antiwar.com, there is an excellent piece by Pratap Chatterjee (What a cool name!) and Tom Engelhardt, about the faulty nature of how this war is being fought. The article correctly points out the discrepancy “between two doctrines in the U.S. war in Afghanistan -- counterinsurgency ('protecting the people') and counterterrorism (killing terrorists).” It is highly informative and well worth the read. The authors know a lot, and we are indebted to them, Antiwar.com, and the Internet in general for sharing this information with the rest of us. I am in full agreement on this point.
Unfortunately, the overall nature of the war is not covered in this article, nor is the source of the “bungled” strategy located. To bring up the main point that the authors illuminate is laudatory. This “mismanagement” of the war, however, is not the reason “we” are still there; at least, not the only one. I can draw no conclusions as to why the authors do not remind us of the overarching reasons why the government does what it does. I can only speculate, knowing what I know about the drug of television (certainly not the only invisible drug sponsored by those who wish to rule), that it may have to do with missing crucially important pieces of information, likewise ignored by televised mass media.
The reason I suspect this is because Engelhardt, in his introduction, says, “The 9/11 killers were mass assassins who gave up their own lives to murder thousands.” This much of what the mass media have told us about 9/11 may very well be true, but as I have pointed out in a previous article, even that much is suspect. In fact, I think the whole truth will never be fully known, based on the government's refusal to explain the many inconsistencies in what the drugged populace has been sold. The suspicions go further and further, deeper and deeper, like a certain rabbit hole in a certain children's story, while the “official” line is aped at Antiwar.com, whose editor, Justin Raimondo, has at least once in the past made fun of people like me by calling us “Troothers” (paragraph 27 of the linked article). I will gladly accept the epithet the minute someone can explain to me, using logic, how a 110-story building, with a massive and largely undamaged interior core, can collapse at roughly 4-5 stories per second. But we'll leave that aside, since virtually everyone else does, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Government, being a system premised upon the initiation of coercion, is essentially stupid. The stupidity lies in the fact that those who participate, manage, govern, and believe in this system do not understand that coercion is death. If they did, they would see not only that counterinsurgency vs. counterterrorism is a legitimate conundrum, but that, conversely, to emphasize “protecting the people” rather than killing “terrorists” (and soon-to-be-terrorist toddlers) is also a path to ultimate ruin.
The death-oriented individuals running this war, however, are not stupid; you are, if you think that either counterterrorism or counterinsurgency is the main concern of those who fire missiles into peaceful homes. The men who wrote that article are obviously not stupid, and I am certain that they realize the more minor concern of counterinsurgency vs. counterterrorism takes a backseat to what is really going on. If you don't buy that last assertion, then perhaps you'll buy the new World Trade Center 7 building, which was built on the ground where this one stood until 5:00 p.m. on September 11, 2001.
Those who are ultimately in charge of this war don't give a damn about “protecting people,” nor do they really much care about killing “terrorists.” The killing may or may not be incidental, but the actual goals have to do with what every government has concerned itself with since the dawn of hate, fear, hurt, and the resultant coercion: wealth, through confiscation if necessary, and power at any cost. This war, like the War on Certain Kinds of Drugs, never actually needs to end.
We can prattle on endlessly about how one strategy is worse than the other; we can pick apart alpha males with too much testosterone and replace them with alpha males who know how to fake it; but in the end, this war was started because a New Pearl Harbor, no matter who is ultimately responsible, would ensure that the empire would go on forever. Government may be stupid, but the populace it governs is apparently stupider. (Let me once again reiterate that the stupidity of the populace does not include the Antiwar.com article’s writers. Again, I am stupider than Chatterjee, Engelhardt, and Raimondo, just in case anybody takes offense.)
The article goes on to quote Danny Hall, a civilian director of “reconstruction,” who said, “I felt like I never really knew what was going on, where I was supposed to be, what my role was, or if I even had one. In particular, I didn’t speak either language that I needed: Pashtu or military.”
Is it not plain enough? A complete non-expert put in charge of “reconstruction,” a fake plan necessary to appease hysterical soccer moms everywhere who know aces about casseroles, but jack about love, freedom, truth, and peace. They might as well replace Hall with me. I will rapidly begin “reconstruction” by giving the kiddies free piano lessons (those left with ten fingers, and excluding the ones dying of radiation poisoning), and counseling gay male teenagers hounded by fundamentalist Muslims. There, mom. Don't you feel better? Back to your casserole.
So, having come from this stupefied populace, how did I get off the drug? Amazingly, it has to do with the stupidity of government: its inability to predict that much further into the future. I can think of two things that happened in my personal life that have probably not happened for too many others . . . yet. But both things are directly connected to the sort of society endorsed, encouraged, and enshrined into law by the government that wants me hooked.
First of all, I failed, and failed miserably. I dropped out of master’s school because I didn't have the cojones to be an orchestral conductor. This led directly to my insertion into the corporate rat race, which I loathe. (I take full responsibility, however, for decisions that led to both outcomes.) Regardless, every day is a subtle reminder of my inability to get what I really wanted out of life, as much as I like my coworkers, and as much as my work is sometimes a little interesting, at least enough to keep me from going stir crazy. Consequently, when I'm at work, I'm online whenever I can get away with it (like that wonderful scene in Terry Gilliam's “Brazil”). The Interweb thingy has this neat way of linking. One link to the next, to the next, to the next has led me out of conservatism, neoconism, religious rightism, anti-gayism, warmongering, revenge fantasy, the great big lie of 9/11, constitutionalism, minarchism, paternalism, maternalism, Mormonism, and every other system of coercion I can think of. All of this, because of boring office work. Ironically, I have that to thank for writing these very words.
Secondly, the advent of reality television, and the demise of the sit-com. Prior to my thorough disillusionment with this poisonous instrument, I thought television was good at only three things: delivering news and information, sporting events, and comedy. Television is to drama what Morten Lauridsen's “Lux Aeterna” is to classical music: pulp. (More on Lauridsen's musical crime in another essay.) Prior to dumping the satellite dish, I got briefly turned on to the drama, “House, M.D.” featuring the brilliant (and you may not know, terribly funny) Hugh Laurie. By the end of the second season, however, I grew tired of the soap-operatic personal lives of the three subordinate doctors (all thoroughly unlikeable), the season finale cliffhangers, and everything else wrong with TV drama.
But it's worse than that. Since becoming converted to life-orientation, I have also discovered that television gets a D-minus or an F in delivering crucial information, since most news outlets, as Raimondo rightly points out, are merely mouthpieces for bloody liars. Even sports, in which I have no interest, are provided by corporate powers, and their rent boys are increasingly pumped up on steroids to impress the men and bed the women. The only thing left is comedy, and television is forsaking that in order to bring you the shallow personal problems of Barbie and Ken dolls who want fame any way they can get it.
Therefore, when I turned it off one day in December 2006, and put on a DVD of “The Sound of Music“ while decorating my Christmas tree, it occurred to me that the feeling I experienced (and this is very revealing) was much the same as having the television on. I left it off the rest of the day, enjoying my tree (I should do it professionally, so if you're in the northern New Jersey area . . .) and various gems in my DVD collection. (No Christmas is complete without watching Katharine Hepburn's visceral performance in “The Lion in Winter,” which takes place entirely on a medieval Christmas Eve, showcases everything you need to know about government, and will leave you with lots of warm, fuzzy feelings.)
So the experiment continued until eventually I called up corporate DirecTV and asked them not to charge me for one month. That was it. By the end of the month, I was ready to uproot the satellite dish, cancel DirecTV for good, buy a few old shows on DVD, and thus, Fake TV was born. No more corporate, government-sponsored misinformation (they refuse to show the collapse of the old WTC 7 on any television news outlet); no more interruptions by corporate sporting events in my routine viewing schedule; no more commercial breaks; no more aggravating messages flashed across the bottom of the screen while trying to watch something; and no more jokes cut out so that more commercials can be shoved in. This glorious result led to two more realizations only tangentially connected to government's attempted control of my mind:
First, after several weeks of Fake TV, on the television screens at my gym, I noticed a great deal of sex, in the commercials and on the programs. It was all over the place. Why had I not seen this? You can't watch porn at the gym (unfortunately), so why had I not noticed it before? Do you understand that your prepubescent children are seeing this?
Second, you have no idea -- and I mean this -- unless you have done as I have, you have no idea how much that sickening thing yells at you. I'm not just talking about how they ingeniously make the commercials LOUDER THAN THE PROGRAMS, but the news commentators, for all their smiling and gentleness, are yelling at you. Oprah, as much as I like some of her free market sensibilities, is yelling at you. Dr. Phil, as much as I detest him, is yelling at you. MTV yells at you, television critics yell at you, Bill O'Reilly yells at you (and his guests), Bill Maher yells at you, Conan O'Brien yells at you . . . . They have to. Some of these people probably don't even realize it, and they probably don't intend it, either. The nature of the instrument is yelling. There's a brilliant old “Far Side” cartoon showing what families did before the invention of television: Everyone sat around in a circle, staring at one of the living room walls. Funny, sure, but this is what television wants you to think, and it's false. There was no void that television originally filled.
It's awful. Even with Fake TV, I can tell that the remnants of it are awful. “The Golden Girls” is funny as hell, a comedy classic, but they yell at me. If I took it seriously, I would have to have no problem with an unmarried woman being artificially inseminated so she can have a trophy child. (This brings to mind the great Nora Dunn, as Pat Stevens, a send-up of a former model: “I always say that children make the best accessories!”) I would also have to fail to recognize how “The Golden Girls” treat some of the men, and how some of the comments about men in general are unfounded and deliberately cruel. Likewise, I would have to refuse to see how unfunny it is in “Fawlty Towers” when Sybil Fawlty throws a heavy metal box at her husband and nearly misses him. To watch television requires that you continually remind yourself that you're being lectured even while you're being entertained, and that all of this information must be carefully filtered; if not, then I couldn't enjoy Simon Schama's riveting “A History of Britain“ (now available on Fake TV), where he abuses the word “anarchy,” accuses advocates of the free market of having a “fetish,” and praises the warmonger Winston Churchill, merely because Churchill stood for something English. (I forget what -- not the free market, I guess.)
So here's the challenge: Turn the thing off for just one week. Not a week when you need to get some big project around the house done, not a week when you're planning a party, not a week when you're going camping. Do not replace television with anything extraordinary. Do not replace it with computer downloads of television programs or YouTube (except this bald guy). Do not replace it with radio, which is nearly as poisonous, and oftentimes yells at you even more, with name-calling thrown in for good measure. Music? Sure. Especially these pieces. A movie? Depends. Reading? Okay. Board games? Hell yeah! Talking to your kids? Great. Screwing? Really great. (But no link.) Whatever. Just make sure it's a normal weekly activity, or one that would spontaneously be undertaken in any given television-viewing week. When the experiment is over, even if you think I'm wrong, I would appreciate a comment below about how it went.
If the experiment succeeds in weaning you from television, here is what you have to look forward to: If you invest in Fake TV as I have, the cable or satellite bills stop, the commercials stop, the lying news programs and their bloody-mouthed politicians fall silent, and corporate America has a great deal less appeal. You may even discover that you actually like one of your kids. (The horror!) If you don't invest in Fake TV after rehabilitation, you will most likely end up reading more books, or spending a great deal more time on the Internet, which is what happened to me, which brings me back to the first thing I mentioned about the revolution in my mind, and how the revolution for freedom is already won. Thanks to the stench of television, the mundanity of the rat race, and the wondrous, glorious, free-market-oriented nature of the Internet (in spite of some of its nastier content, for which you generally have to go out of your way to look), I am now, midway (hopefully) through my existence on this earth, a life-oriented man. I am quite certain that by the end of the week, you will be well on your way to a life oriented in living. Go for it. Right now.
P.S. In spite of my strong disagreement with the talented Mr. Raimondo, to whom I am actually indebted in a personal way (even though we never met and probably never will), I have to agree with his recent remarks about laying aside differences to band together against a war that has murdered more than a million. In spite of a previous angry letter I sent to Antiwar.com after the “Troother” insult, I will be contributing once again to their quarterly fund drive (so should you), in keeping with Raimondo's excellent logical arguments, brought to you by the Internet, in partnership with Fake TV.