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The Sun Interview

Bad Magic: The Failure Of Technology

An Interview With Jerry Mander

When Jerry Mander suggested in his book Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, published in 1978, that television was not reformable no matter who controlled the medium, it represented the first time anyone had dared suggest that we do away with television altogether. Mander argued that television is a primary tool in the ongoing mediation of human experience, the visual intoxicant that entrances the viewer into a hypnotic state and thereby replaces other forms of knowledge with the imagery of its programmers. It infuses young children with high-tech, high-speed expectations of life, so that a walk in nature would likely seem interminably boring. It is the tool used not only to sell the resources that have been dug up, melted, forged, and otherwise appropriated from the earth, but to sell us back our feelings, which the entrancement has eclipsed. Television colonizes its viewers by way of an artificial reality replete with its own values. From a political point of view, it is particularly dangerous because “it is the one speaking to the many,” as Mander describes anyone from the corporate sponsor to the nightly anchorperson. And it is bad for our bodies as well, creating mental and physical sickness by the mesmerizing phosphorescent glow of its artificial light.

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

My Machines

There is a man I talk to in the Astor Place subway stop. He lives there, and he’s missing a tooth. Today his hair was wound around sticks.

Profit And Loss

Selling The Family Home

An era in the life of our family ended last fall, with no ritual of mourning, when a handful of $99,000 checks landed in my sister’s mailbox.

The Seduction Of Consciousness

Advances in technology not only have the power to render old assumptions obsolete but can actually force new and more appropriate modes of thinking. We saw this happen with the advent of nuclear weaponry. Only when the atomic genie was out of its bottle and rattling human consciousness did altruism, compassion, and common sense get a real shot at reducing the likelihood of total war. We are now reaching yet another such watershed. Operating at the deepest levels of perception, new consciousness-altering technologies herald both unprecedented crises as well as remarkable opportunities.

TV Guide

During one winter’s visit at a home that contained several televisions, I returned from errands and found our daughters in the bedroom closet (it has a light), reading.

Russia, My Heart

I can’t keep up with the news. I don’t try. Your scattered nations, your different selves, held together now by — what? Under the czar , they say, under the communists, Russia has never known democracy. Have I? Who calls himself Safransky, signs everything I write? The newspapers warn there will be hunger this winter. This I believe. They say a spiritual, god-fearing nation has triumphed over godless communism.

Fiction

A Body Of Sound And Light

What is in a body? We see flesh with blood going through, but who knows what it is? I never asked before. All my life I saw a body as just a body, this bit of flesh we’re put inside the day we come alive. All I cared for was the way a body moves me. I’m the best runner I know of, and I still brag to Olga I’m at my fastest going up a hill. On a straightaway, I lope along like a tired dog in summer. But something about a hill makes me leap up over its grasses and stones till I’m standing at the top.

Home Free

O’Reilly always said he wanted to be free. Free, free, free. Good for him, I say. I used to tell him, OK, you be free, and I’ll be fifteen dollars an hour, and we’ll see who pays the rent first.

Readers Write

Homecoming

My parents were both in their forties when I was born, and I never had a close relationship with them. Even so, when I was in college I would dutifully come home every other weekend to visit them.

Personal Stories By Our Readers ▸
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