25 March 2012


In a recent NYTimes review of J. G. Ballard's final novel, Kingdom Come: "Things could be worse, and the world as we know it might never change at all. Or, as Pearson remarks late in the novel, 'Think of the future as a cable TV program going on forever.'"

In contrast, I am reminded of one of C. S. Lewis' essays in which Hell is endless, ghettoized urban sprawl--a hellish geographic urban macrospace. But the televisual, hellish future now will be conveniently broadcast to our very homes (if we but pay the cable bill)--home as the mediatized site of geographic microspatial dystopia.

I have seen them, those cable TV programs, and like Ballard's I sense a frog-in-hot-water pre-dystopic self-satisfaction for which we should be mildly pleased, if it were not to prefigure a procrastinating, self-satisfied frog in an even hotter dystopic-water future inexorably approaching.

As Ballard has one of his characters say, "What's the point of free speech if you have nothing to say?" Yes, with endless, mindless TV endlessly mindlessly watched, what's the point? We might as well sit like froggie, and watch (and wait).

Media theorist/critic and educator Neil Postman says in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985) that we should heed Aldous Huxley (in Brave New World) more than George Orwell (in Nineteen Eighty-four). Says Postman (pp. 155-156):

"In the Huxleyan prophecy, Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours. There is no need for a Ministry of Truth. When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is defined by a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then
a nation finds itself at risk; culture death is a clear possibility."

Froggie in Hell: Third Season reruns, tonight at 11:00.

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