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Are you against all television?
Sure, why not? It's not the good or bad programs you watch White Dot is campaigning against, but the activity of viewing - the hours you spend in front of the TV set, the things you will never do as a result, and a lifestyle that is as lifeless as it is heavily promoted. Television is an industry. And while it offers fantasy worlds of glittering celebrity, this industry's careers, business plans and share values all measure their success in the minutes of your ordinary life it can take away. Right now the average viewing time in America and Britain is four hours a day - half the time you are not sleeping or working. That is a huge commitment of time, and a great deal of money depends on your continued loyalty. When your TV set is not telling you what to buy or what to think or how to feel, it is shouting at you: Stay tuned! Don't touch that dial! Don't miss this episode! In fact, White Dot and the television industry have this in common: we couldn't care less what you see on TV. We talk about what happens on the screen, only because we know it is the battleground, but the prize is your supposedly "hum drum" real life and what you do there.

But some TV is good!
Yes it is. Some TV is unforgettable. But how do you find it? Chances are you come across it while surfing through hours of forgettable garbage. Meanwhile, you are missing hours of your own life - the conversations and relationships you "donít have time for" that really should be unforgettable. After all, how much passive entertainment do you need? One video-on-demand pilot project found that when viewers were given the option to watch anything, any time they wanted, they didnít watch that much. The pilot was considered a "failure". If you start using a TV listings magazine to choose programmes, instead of just "seeking whatís on", you will notice that you watch less yourself. Yes, it is fun to watch the occasional good TV show. But members of White Dot have found that turning off the TV completely, and never looking for those occasional good shows, is just much more fun.

What about educational TV for adults?
Television is the most powerful form of communication there is, as long as you want to manipulate people. But if you want to give someone facts and reasoned arguments they can use to do their own thinking, then visual, time-based media like television are almost useless. Consider what you learn from a half hour watching TV to a half hour reading a book or newspaper on the same subject. Thereís no comparison; print is many times more informative.

What about educational TV for children?
Can you learn something from a TV show? Yes. Do you learn more from a life without television? Yes. But those are questions for adults. Children need to learn a different lesson before anything else, and that is how to control and manage their time and energy.

Education is giving someone the tools they need to think critically and act creatively. TV is a kind of anti-education. It gives kids some facts and pictures, but then takes away the mental activity that would do anything with that information. Any child sat down in front of a TV set is being given one important lesson: sit here and wait for entertainment. That one lesson is more powerful than any documentary or nature show. And if you let TV educate your children, it will only teach them to be TV viewers. Thatís the whole point of television.

Iím a teacher. What about TV in the classroom?
There is nothing wrong with a break in planned lessons. Teachers should take their kids out, play ball, visit a museum, whatever. But teachers should give children the confidence that comes from discussion and active study. You are their role model, and while anyone can teach them to sit and be entertained by television characters, it is your job to teach them something else.

The broadcast and cable industries, by the way, are very keen to replace as much of traditional teaching as they can with television. They know that working TV content into formal education is a great way of getting pay TV services into homes. Even worse, the a company called Channel One makes millions each year by showing commercials in American classrooms. In exchange for a bit of audio-video equipment, schools are tied into contracts whereby they provide captive audiences of children to Channel Oneís advertisers. Teachers should be aware of how TV is being used to subvert education.


How dare you tell me what to do or think!
Some people object to White Dotís strong stand against television. People donít like being told what to do. But if you value your free will, why do you watch television? An entire industry is spending millions of dollars to develop programs and advertisements that bully, seduce and manipulate you. Everyone who works in television talks of "changing the way people think" about this or that. You happily spend hours every night absorbing what they pump out: "Buy this!", "Donít miss this", "You want this!", "You couldnít live without that!" etc.

White Dot is a campaign. We are presenting reasoned arguments for you to consider. We are doing no more than inviting people to question their use of time and live more of their own real lives. If you feel we are imposing on you, please accept our apologies. But if we were shouting at you to buy frozen dinners instead, would you even have noticed?

Do you go to the cinema or watch videos? Why do you have a website?
Obviously, all forms of art and media have things in common. The works of Dickens could be said to manipulate readersí emotions. Movies are passive entertainment, very similar to television. Anyone listening to a violinist perform must sit still, and not talk to anyone else. And to read this web page, you must be sitting at a video screen. So since we are not campaigning against these activities, it is not difficult to pick away at the edges of White Dotís argument.

In response, we can only point out the differences, and try to prove that television has all the drawbacks of these other pastimes with none of the advantages.

Theatre and cinema are both emotionally manipulative art forms, played to a passive audience. Thatís why we like them, even need them. Psychologists have compared these activities to the "sacred space" that is deliberately created in religious ceremonies and rituals. Every culture offers its members these places that are outside their ordinary lives, where they can let down their guard and consider real change in their lives.

Anyone going to a movie is deliberately leaving their real life behind. They leave their house, meet a friend at the theatre, walk inside and the lights go down. They wait for the director and actors to make them sad, scared or excited. Then, after they have been pulled through the mental and emotional wringer, they come out and talk about what theyíve seen and heard.

The problem with television is, we have worked this escapist, manipulative experience into our daily lives. Instead of offering a pleasant and necessary break from reality, television is slowly taking over our reality. Emotional manipulation is happening in our homes, every night. What was the important exception is now taking over our families, our friendships, our politics, our religion, everything it can possibly control. And far from being sacred, this ritual is performed in the name of any advertiser who wants you to consider real change in your life.


Videos, like television, encourage people to sit around getting manipulated. On the other hand, they are not vehicles for commercials and people have to think about what video they want to rent, rather than just "seeing whatís on" for hours. So there is good and bad.

White Dot is not against the performing arts. We cannot object to the use of video as a medium.

But television is more than a medium, it is a lifestyle. If most people used television the way they use videos - to watch a movie once a week or so - there would be no need for White Dot. And if people "only watched the good shows" , the television industry as we know it would not exist. Watching hours of rubbish is an important part of the business model. Videos can actually interrupt that.

The internet can be just as isolating as television. People who use websites and email in place of real friends are making the same terrible mistake as people who cling to soap operas and sports instead of their flesh and blood partners.

But the internet has also posed a real challenge to television as well.

The internet is not centrally controlled the way television is. While very few people can afford their own television station or time to present their views in a 30 second commercial, almost anyone with an opinion can put up a web page or join an online discussion. Internet users now get their news from a huge variety of sources, compared with the censorship inherent in a time-based medium like TV.

The internet values the contributions of individual people. Its emphasis on the written word over the visual image has invigorated debate and raised the level of public discussion. Its emphasis on communication over entertainment has reduced the power of celebrity and spectacle. It has got people excited about what they can do themselves.

The next decade will see a crucial battle for control of the internet, with names like AOL/Time Warner, Disney and Murdoch seeking control of its infrastructure and, thereafter, its content. Whether they succeed in watering the internet down into yet another form of TV depends on the imagination of consumers. Are we willing to get off the couch or not?

Isnít campaigning against TV similar to burning books?
Burning books is a form of oppression and censorship of ideas by those in power. White Dot is tiny, weíre not in a position to oppress anybody, and we donít wish to censor anything. Quite the opposite.

The television is the largest, wealthiest, most tightly controlled and narrowly owned medium the world has ever seen. By its nature, it can never foster an open exchange of ideas, but must always be a one way communication from people who can afford to own television transmitters and licenses to the people who cannot.

Turning off TV doesnít cut you off from the world of ideas; it opens you up to other worlds of ides that have been deliberately ignored by the people at the top.

If you object to TV so much, you can just turn it off!
Um, yeah. Thatís the campaign. We turned it off, we liked it off, and weíre telling people how nice it is. We are countering the millions of dollars that are spent every year telling people how wonderful TV is.

Iím studying the effects of TV on children, society, families etc. Do you have any information I can use?
We are always gathering new information about the effects of TV viewing, and soon hope to present them on the website. In the meantime, you may want to look for these books:

The Plug In Drug by Marie Winn
Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television by Gerry Mander
Television and the Quality of Life by Kubey and Czichmihalhyi
Babytalk by Sally Ward
Endangered Minds by Jane Healy
Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam
Get A Life by David Burke and Jean Lotus
The More You Watch the Less You Know by Daniel Schecter

How can I get in touch with other people who donít watch TV?
This is tricky. First, we wish to respect the privacy of people who have written to us or used our publications. So we cannot easily give out addresses. We may set up something on the website for people to meet, but, to be honest, we would be surprised to hear of large groups of White dotters regularly meeting to discuss how much they hate television.

What would be the point? The great thing about getting TV out of your life is that you donít have to sit around talking about it anymore. And people who donít watch TV are such a diverse bunch of people, they would probably just spend all their time arguing.

If you are looking for active people in your community, who are ready to do more than sit in evenings and watch TV, then the best places to find them are wherever people make an effort to do something else - bars, libraries, night clubs, community centers and bowling alleys.

These are the "enthusiasts", "busy bodies" and "hobbyists" that weíve grown up hating or laughing at on television. You know, "Ed the nutty neighbor" on the sitcoms we grew up with, who bounds into the room talking about his hair-brained scheme or his collection or the meeting heís off to attend. Ha ha ha, what a jerk, huh? Television has spent decades making fun of these people, or warning us about their closed minds and sinister meddling.

Some of which, of course, is true.

If you go out and do real things, they might not all be fun. If you meet real people, they may not all be nice. White Dot accepts no responsibility for you not being dead.

Is it true that people die?
Yes, in fact everyone reading this will die someday.

What should we do until then?
Try to act as if you are not dead.

Iím preparing for a debate about television. Can you help?
See the research section above. And there is more coming. But, not being funny here, you should buy Get A Life! by David Burke and Jean Lotus. We wrote that book specifically to slap down viewers and raise up the masses. It is perfect debate material.

But what if I just want to relax?
Then donít watch television. A study by Kuby and Czichmihalyi in YEAR showed that people who watched TV actually felt more wound up and tense after watching TV than before they sat down. TV creates a "passive spillover effect" that leaves viewers feeling lethargic and unable to concentrate for hours after watching.

But you donít need scientists to tell you that. How do you feel after a night of watching television - relaxed and happy? Or just mentally fried?

But what do you DO if you donít watch television?
Thatís a very interesting question. If we gave you a list of things to do - run, play, make something, visit someone - all the suggestions we made would seem pedantic and ordinary. We could say "Go skydiving! Have an extramarital affair!" But that is beside the point.

A list of things to do sounds boring bacuase you would just be reading it. The activities only become fun, and they do become fun, when you actually do them. TV tries very hard to blur this distinction, and convince you that watching other people have a life is the same as having one yourself. People will ask us "How can you not watch TV? Youíre missing all those experiences!"

If youíve already swallowed the idea that there is no difference between watching and doing, or that the real experience of a TV viewer is anything other than that of sitting on a couch watching a TV set, then it is very difficult to explain what we are doing with our free time. Weíre not just sitting and staring at the same table that would ordinarily have a TV set on top of it, which is what many viewers seem to imagine we are advocating.

By definition, what you do when you donít watch TV is all the rest of the things in your life. So we would ask you, what is it you do as you watch TV that could make it worth missing all these other things?

Any suggestions on weening myself off it?
Some practical suggestions: Use TV listings to select programmes you want to see. Don't just 'see what's on'. Also, move the television out of the livingroom, so you only use it to see something you really want to see. Or, just get rid of the thing! Give it to a friend. The bigger challenge is what will you do if you don't watch TV? If there is nothing to challenge televised entertainment in your life, you need to find something.

Do you have kids yourself?
I have a young daughter. She's watches some TV when she's with her mother. Some people use television as a way to buy a few minutes of peace. I would ask them to reconsider using television this way. A large number of parents have written to White Dot and said that precisely because their children did not watch television, and had learnt to deal with boredom, structure their own time, and play by themselves; they, the parents had an easier time. If you sit and watch half an hour of children's television, what do you feel like doing, besides running around and screaming for some toy?

Anyway, I never know what my daughter will do. For all I know, she wants her own talk show. And I sometimes let her play video games on my computer. Weakness? Hypocracy? Moderation? I'm not sure. Jean Lotus, who started White Dot in Chicago has four kids and no TV.

Is not education in how to use the television as a medium the answer to all your issues?
Absolutely not! Media education has two great failings. First, it reinforces in students the idea that the spectacle of television should be the centre of their lives and all public activity as well. Second, media studies courses begin from a premise that television, in some form, is good. It is not in the interest of any media studies professor or textbook author to arrive at the relatively simple truth that maybe television is just not worth the time. If the 'off' button is the answer, then no media studies course will ever help students find it. By ignoring the 'off' button, all media studies can only chase its tail.

Can you be more clear about what motivates your beliefs
My own personal beliefs don't matter. Anti-television has support from a surprisingly wide range of political and spiritual opinion. Right-wingers think that television is corrupting our morals. Left-wingers think television is a tool of heartless capitalism. As far as I'm concerned, they're both right. What is the opposite of television? Answer: Not watching television. In other words, having a real life. Anything you believe in or want to do, has to be done when you're not watching television. By watching four hours of television a day, you are giving up something very important.

What about sport?
Sports, I have to admit, is one of the best arguments for watching TV. There it is. If you can't afford to attend the World Cup or the Superbowl, how else could you see it? And I've been in bars when these events were broadcast and I admit, there was a good atmosphere. But I'll make the following points anyway:

Ask real football fans what is ruining their sport, and they'll say Rupert Murdoch. Television created the Premier League and will slowly suck the life out of local teams. Television is the engine that drives the commercialisation of everything it touches.

Also - what IS football? Is it something you watch on TV, or something you play? Before television, you would not have seen the World Cup, but you would have followed your own local teams with intensity. The gap between you and the people playing would not have been what it is today. You would have known some of the players personally. You would have spent more time playing yourself.

Look at the US. Local sports, played by adults, are poorly attended and the European concept of a football pitch in every large town is unheard of. Americans watch more sports on TV than anyone on the planet, and they actually play outdoors less than anyone the planet. The American diet has actually gone down in fat and calories while obesity rates have skyrocketed? Why? cars and TV sets.

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