Wednesday, June 4, 2014


by Ray Jason

My friend Dmitry Orlov, who shares my belief that sailing boats are both excellent living platforms and superb escape modules, sent me an interesting email a few days ago.  He had been contacted by a stranger who was interested in possibly featuring him in a Reality TV show about “larger-than-life self-reliant sailors.”  Dmitry gracefully deflected that overture, and put him in touch with me instead. 
Coincidentally, I had been sorting through my notes on possible future essay topics, and was focusing in on an anti-television message.  This well-intentioned man’s email proved to be an excellent catalyst for my thoughts on this rarely examined cornerstone of the modern world.  This is the exact email letter that I sent to him with the exception that I have changed his name – to protect the innocent … 

1 June 14

Hello Brandon,

Thanks for getting in touch with me.  I suspect that your motive was benevolent; and that you are generously trying to help people become new Reality TV stars. 

As Dmitry mentioned, I am quite expert on the topic of ocean-going sailboats as sustainable living modules and as ideal survival platforms in the case of a societal collapse.  He and I are probably the leading thinkers on this topic.  That is the GOOD news.  But there is some significant and overriding BAD news.

I believe that Television is profoundly harmful to society.  And I find Reality TV repellent. 

Such strong words shout out for substantiation, so allow me to do so.  First, let me address television in general.  I could go to one of the “alternative bibles” that I keep in my ship’s library, which is Jerry Mander’s FOUR ARGUMENTS FOR THE ELIMINATION OF TELEVISION, and spend a day re-reading it and then respond to you.  But instead, I will just list a few of the troublesome aspects of television that spring immediately to mind:

·        Television accelerates Humanity’s divorce from Nature.  Seeing an orca whale on The Tube is not even close to experiencing it from a small boat in the wilderness. 
·        TV is a far more powerful communication medium than print sources.  Its deliberately manipulated imagery is so strong that it almost “sears” itself into the brain.  For example, notice how difficult it is to remove vapid advertising jingles from your head decades after you last heard them.
·        Television malevolently sanitizes imagery of the most horrible aspects of human behavior.  If the actual footage of dismembered, smoking, bodies of children in war zones was displayed on TV, it would soon put war profiteers out of business.  Yet we never see that type of coverage because the warmongers are also significant television advertisers, and can call the shots.
·        TV contributes significantly to the obesity epidemic.  Hours that in my youth were spent outdoors playing and burning calories, are now replaced with couch time for most kids.
·         Television greatly serves the interests of the Ruling Elites, since only they can afford to buy significant air time to promote their electoral candidates or oppose ballot propositions.  And with the concentration of media giants currently in place, it means that six mega-corporations control the vast majority of what is communicated to people.
·        TheTube attacks diversity in the world.  It homogenizes society and leads to a global monoculture.
·        Television is the enemy of Truth.  Advertizing is all about fraud and deceit.  The deadly consequences of cigarette smoking were camouflaged for decades on TV.  And now, the toxicity of our processed food “products” is being deliberately hidden from us. 
·        TV separates us from each other.  The “conversation around the family dinner table” is now considered a quaint relic of by-gone times.
·        The Tube does not make us the “best informed citizens in history.”  The information we receive is rarely meaningful or provocative or in any way challenging to the status quo.  And the flow is so vast and overpowering that there is no chance to reflect on it.  Yes, you can get water from a fire hose but it is extremely difficult to drink from it at that speed and volume.
·        Television is stalking you.  Just “turning it off” is nearly impossible since it is almost everywhere – bars, dental offices, gyms, airports and on and on, but not off and off! 

Now let me deal specifically with the phenomenon of Reality TV, and the damaging ways that it impacts our society:
 Reality TV is to reality what Velveeta is to cheese.  During my decades as a professional entertainer, I sometimes had television crews follow me around for days at a time in order to do what were termed “up close and personal” profiles in those days.  Having a camera lens around, undeniably affects the daily dynamic.  It is distortion and not reality.

· RTV glorifies competition and marginalizes co-operation.  And even when co-operation is utilized, it is often just a tactic to outmaneuver someone so that they get “voted off the island.”
 In a world already too fixated with celebrity worship, how can it be beneficial to society to glorify pawn shop clerks with a TV show?
 Reality shows reinforce the myth that acquiring Fame and Fortune should be everyone’s primary life goals.  It glorifies rampant materialism and “better than thou” status seeking.

I hope that this letter has not been upsetting to you.  Wait a minute … that’s not true at all.  In fact, I hope that it has jolted your perception of this enormously powerful cultural force that we take for granted and almost never examine.  I realize that my contrarian views are in the tiny minority; and for every objector like myself, there are 1,000 people craving a shot at Reality TV.  For them it is the Road to Fame.  But for me, it would be the Road to Shame.


Ray Jason