Contemplating in Cairo – Vol. 20

“Television is the first truly democratic culture – the first culture available to everybody and entirely governed by what the people want. The most terrifying thing is what people do want.”
– Clive Barnes


Television is an integral – if not indispensable – part of our existence. No one lives without it, no one doesn’t watch it, no one even wants to consider surviving sans it.

The second we step into our homes, we switch the television on and let it blabber away, regardless of whether or not we are actually following what’s on. Television is now one of life’s essentials and almost no social standard on this planet has a clue what to do without it.

With the enormous variety of channels and programs available on television, it’s easy to see why we’re all addicts to it. From news to entertainment to documentaries; there are programs to satisfy the most diverse and eccentric tastes.

Globalization, cable television and satellites have helped make this world a “small island” as they say. Seated in the comfort of your living room in the heart of the Middle East, you can see – live – what’s going on in Australia or the Far East or the Americas.

The way we perceive television today has varied drastically from the past. What was first invented as a means of entertainment has become as essential as the air we breath. Today, there is little that really – genuinely – entertains us. We are exposed to so much through television that we are left unfeeling to issues that would have, otherwise, moved us deeply.

The sense of “ease” by which we are getting information through television has left us feeling very bored. It now takes extreme matters to move any kind of emotion inside us, whether it’s a disastrous earthquake in India or martyrs dying in Palestine. The way we react is “Oh, that’s just another earthquake” and we just switch the channel.

It is believed that the kinds of programs developed on television are created based on what the viewers want to see. A good example of this theory’s application is how we now have an abundance of choices when it comes to news channels. A mere couple of decades ago, with the Gulf War, real-time news channels could’ve been counted on the fingers of one hand. The coverage of the war’s occurrences made media’s decision-makers realize that there was a need for more of the same and we were consequently bombarded with free-to-air news channels from all over the world.

If this theory was true, what do the current dominant genres of programs aired on television say about us?

It seems to me that, today, we are attracted to programs and shows that are radical and brief. It’s as if our concentration spans are running short and, at the same time, our reactions are triggered with great difficulty. Crime-solving shows are – literally – all over the place, reality TV shows are attracting more and more of us everyday and low-self-esteem-women-making-it-to-the-top shows are becoming a favored genre of ours. These choices make sense, considering how bored we are and how radical our tastes have become.

Another one of our favored genres of television programs is talk shows, and those are yet another group of shows that have flooded our channels, coincidentally all aired at the same time. Our local talk shows are very informative, giving us all the bits and pieces of information that we wish to know about our countries, also in a nutshell. It’s a shame, though, that even though our talk shows shed light on issues of utmost importance, solutions are yet to find their ways into our lives.

So, is it true that what we see on TV is directly relevant to what we want to see?

Conspiracy theorists beg to differ. It is believed that media, be it local, regional or international, is controlled by a selective few who have a hidden agenda that has been discussed in books and series of documentaries. It is also believed that these selective few have control over whose art becomes popular and whose doesn’t, be them musicians, movie stars or television stars, but that’s another topic for another day.

Are we choosing what we want to see on television or are we being tricked into believing that what is aired is what we want?

It’s known that if a specific piece of information is repeated to us often enough, it affects our subconscious mind until we perceive it as the norm. So, are we being tricked into redefining what we perceive as entertaining by being shown nothing else? Or is this really what we want? Or are we too afraid to admit that this is what we want so we are making up these conspiracy theories so we can blame someone else for our failed tastes?

What do you think?

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