Monday Morning Memo for January 24, 2005 by: Roy H. Williams
I was writing an upbeat and instructional memo to send you today called Confidence: Where to Get It and How to Keep It. But it's going to have to wait. This other thing just wouldn't turn me loose until I wrote it down and sent it to you.
Have you ever had a concept slap you in the face with every twist of your consciousness? The slap-fest began for me on Friday, when my chief media buyer asked to have a long discussion with me about television. Juan Guillermo Tornoe rarely requests my time. We had a long heart-to-heart about TV ads and then went home for the weekend...
Upon checking my email that evening I learned that FCC chairman Michael Powell - the man who had tried to deregulate TV and radio so that a tiny handful of people could control what we see and hear - had finally stepped down. I slept a little more peacefully that night.
I awoke the next morning, hopped into my truck to run some errands and stuck a new CD into the player, having no idea what to expect. I'd not heard of the group Green Day, but bought the CD impulsively when Amazon.com had suggested it. I had no idea what sort of music to expect. Here are the lyrics to the first song:
"Don't wanna be an American idiot.
One nation controlled by the media.
Information age of hysteria.
It's calling out to idiot America…"
Again the pervasiveness of TV had popped up like a prairie dog the moment I lifted my glance to the horizon.
Upon my arrival home the rotating quote that greeted me when I logged on to WizardAcademy.com was, "All television is educational television. The question is what is it teaching?" - Nicholas Johnson
More than 700 rotating quotes and that's the one I get. Hmm...
Just then Pennie, having no idea how often I'd already been confronted with the idea of television's pervasive place in our lives, hung up the phone and mentioned that her sister called to say she felt Dr. James Dobson had finally stepped over the line into the land of the paranoid with his accusation that TV's SpongeBob Squarepants is teaching young children to be homosexuals.
I wasn't much interested in the squabble between JamesDob and SpongeBob. The thing that snagged my attention is that Pennie and her sister had been discussing a TV newscast that reported what a media minister had said another TV show might be doing to children.
The next morning Pennie handed me the newspaper's Parade insert because the cover story was an article by literary giant Norman Mailer. I don't ever read the paper, so when the Princess finds something in it she thinks I might want to see, she saves it for me. You guessed it. The great Norman Mailer was railing against TV. "If the desire to read diminishes, so does one's ability to read. The search for a culprit does not have to go far… If we want to have the best of all possible worlds, I believe that television commercials have got to go. The constant interruption of concentration of TV advertising not only dominates much of our lives, but over the long run is bound to bleed into our prosperity… Let us pay directly for what we enjoy on television rather than pass the spiritual cost on to our children and their children."
Halfway through Mailer's rant my email dinged for my attention. It was a note from a friend I'd not heard from in awhile. There's no way Dan knew what I was pondering. I swear I'm not making any of this up. Here's his email:
"Two years ago I watched my last local TV newscast. I was fed up with hearing about murder after murder. I was beginning to believe, as many viewers must, that our society was out of control, with everyone shooting everyone on every street corner. It's not true. Not even close. I feel better about my country since I turned off the local news, which is really "crime news." You know. . . "if it bleeds, it leads." But, sadly, a lot of people seem to accept the idea that being informed about a murder across town is relevant and somehow important to know. It's not. It's mind poison." - Excerpt from RV Travel, Issue 144, EDITOR'S CORNER by Chuck Woodbury
What do all these disjointed thoughts add up to? Only this: television's magnetic hold on us seems to be on the mind of a lot of people right now. And I, for one, am going to ponder this awhile and come to some sort of conclusion. And then I'll probably take some sort of action. What it will be, I have no idea.
There's room in this think-tank for you, too, if you want to jump in.
See you in the deep end.
Roy H. Williams