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Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  1,281 ratings  ·  147 reviews
A total departure from previous writing about television, this book is the first ever to advocate that the medium is not reformable. Its problems are inherent in the technology itself and are so dangerous -- to personal health and sanity, to the environment, and to democratic processes -- that TV ought to be eliminated forever.

Weaving personal experiences through meticulou
Paperback, 384 pages
Published March 1st 1978 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 1977)
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Feliks I'm going to guess that the name is a pseudonym, not even his real name to begin with.

By the way, controversies over gerrymandering in US politics are…more
I'm going to guess that the name is a pseudonym, not even his real name to begin with.

By the way, controversies over gerrymandering in US politics are hardly new. Really, nothing in American politics is ever new.(less)

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Nothing To See Here. Move Along.

It is instructive to read Jerry Mander’s* analysis of the evils of television written more than 40 years ago and after more than 20 years of experience with the progressive replacement of television by the internet. Mander clearly couldn’t anticipate the technological developments that would make his criticism appear naively old hat: “I came to the conclusion that like other modern technologies which now surround our lives, advertising, television and most mass
Aug 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone.
A few ideas were so surprising that I had to put the book down and think about them for a while before I could read on.

Even though it was written thirty years ago, not a word has dated. Mander unwittingly analyzed not just television, but all electronic media, the ambient tech environment that we're in like fish in water. Even if you disagree with the title, his mode of thinking about how mass media work is so original that the book is worth it.

Unpretentious, nimble, broad-minded, and astonishin
Jul 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hot_topics
This guy rams a size-12, hob-nailed, steel-shanked Timberland work-boot right up the diseased sphincter that is our mindless American television culture. He stomps his way up the communal colon and wrecks every twisting-and-turning where so many of our neighbors choose to reside. Doesn't leave a single nerve-ending intact.

This expose' is stellar, and the perfect antidote to anyone you know who is addicted to hours of TV every day. They will have no rebuttal to reply with once you apprise them o
Mar 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: avid movie/tv watchers
This book was a testament to everything that is inherently wrong with television. I don't watch tv (surprise to everyone I meet who asks if I've catched the latest episode of scandal) because to be really REALLY honest, I can't sit down for more then 10 minutes straight without getting fidgety and commercials have always pissed me off. I would be wondering why a woman eating chocolate sensually is supposed to make me want to buy chocolate? Why is she moaning, I mean it's just chocolate for fucks ...more
Michael Perkins
Jul 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
“Those who say they give the public what it wants begin by underestimating public taste, and end by debauching it.” (T.S. Eliot)

“Life doesn't imitate art, it imitates bad television.” (Woody Allen)

This book was published in 1978, sound familiar?

"the problem was too much information. The population was being inundated with conflicting versions of increasingly complex events. People were giving up on understanding anything. The glut of information was dulling awareness, not aiding it. Overload. It
Nov 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gen-nonfiction
the classic anti-tv book, well written and convincing. not merely a "television makes you stupid" diatribe, but rather a logical, compelling, researched argument against the medium and its effects on personal health, mental well-being, environment, and democracy. questions whether technology can ever really be inherently "neutral." probably more important now than when it was written three decades ago.

"television: a medium - so called because it is neither rare nor well done." ~ernie kovacs

"i wi
Jul 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
Regarding this book, James Woolcott wrote in the New York Review of Books that "the special value of Mander’s call-to-arms is that by dedicating himself to a concrete destructive end he can more effectively marshall his facts. Such utopian ferocity can clarify one’s own misgivings about the medium - or so I thought until I actually cracked the book open."

Yes, certain personal misgivings I, too, have about watching television are represented here: Mander gives voice to what is, in essence, boring
Apr 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I read this book probably 30 years ago and found it to be such an eye opener. I didn't have a TV for years after reading this, but, alas, did have one while my kids were growing up. However, because of this book I think I was able to make them aware of some of the insidious methods used regarding advertizing and mind numbing constantly bombarding them from the glowing tube.

They are now, I am proud to say, all avid readers and learners and none of them blind consumers. Thank you Gerry Mander for
Aug 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: communications
While I'm sympathetic to the intentions of the book overall I found the ideas scattered and not presented as well as I would've hoped. The problem is that the book isn't even really about television, only about half of it is. There's a lot of commentary here about mass media in general, about culture, even criticism of capitalism.

The first two arguments are about television indirectly, focusing on placing a medium between the individual and reality, and the commercialization of this medium respe
Emily Crow
I've been meaning to read this book since I was in college, when I positively wallowed in diatribes about how modern technology was ruining everything. (I have since mellowed a lot on this idea, as it would mean eschewing my kindle, word processor and the Internet, and why on earth would I want to do something like that??) Decades later, I've finally got around to it. There's definitely a lot of food for thought in here, but Mander's arguments vary significantly in persuasiveness, and some of th ...more
Mark Singer
Aug 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the effects of television on people
Recommended to Mark by: no one
Shelves: technology
I read this many years ago and need to do so again. Jerry Mander was a successful advertising executive who quit the business in the early 70's and tried to make a difference. In this book, he makes a strong case against television. Sounds crazy?

In my opinion, his arguments about the diminished capacity to reason, the harmful effects of artificial light, the narrowing of experience, the inherent biases and the one-way nature of the medium still hold up. I would have given the book more than 4 s
Philip Morgan
Mar 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
At times certain people display a sincerity and a congruence with their deepest beliefs that is truly amazing. And often this state is combined with a simplicity of presentation. And the cynical among us might be inclined to laugh. Test yourself on this point if you like. See this video of Fred Rogers testifying before the US Senate:

Did you laugh at him at any point? Think he was silly or goofy or a pansy? How did you feel at the end of his speech?

This bo
Oct 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
One of the three most important books I've ever read. This is more than an anti-television book. Along with Weapons of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto, it should be read by everyone to gain some sort of insight into why we, and society, are the way we are - and what we need to do to change it.
Dec 07, 2007 rated it really liked it
I love television and I love this book. The point about it is that it objectifies the experience of watching and actually allowed me to go ahead and love TV. Yes, it may have some dated arguments in it, but it lays down a fundamental questioning of an act most of us do every day.
Lee Foust
Sep 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
So this, along with Moneyball is one of those non-fiction books that, by examining a small, specific thing, challenges one's whole way of looking at the world--that's why both of these titles are favorites of mine well beyond any concern for either wealth inequality in baseball or the inherent biases of television as a medium of information.

What Mander has done for me here is open up my thinking about the conditioning effects of all types of technologies--even art itself as a medium of expressio
May 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE - especially in the TV industry
As I've written elsewhere, probably in the Cognitive Dissidents Group, I put off reading this for 30 yrs. It came out in 1978 & I'd already stopped watching TV in 1969 or 1970 - one of the best decisions I ever made in my life, if I do say! Of course, saying that I "stopped watching TV" is, sadly, not as true as I'd like it to be given that there's usually a TV on in whatever laundromat I go to, in the bars I go to, etc.. There was even talk for a while of putting TVs on buses here in Pittsburgh ...more
Alex Jeffries
Jul 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: television
Navigating this book was always going to be a minefield, as I bought it in the first place as someone with a television career and Sun Tzu's "know thy enemy" bouncing around my brain. Jerry Mander's arguments for the elimination of television are not easily refutable, and that's trouble (for me, for humanity, etc.). This book is a well-reasoned and researched dismantling of television, and the tendencies of our culture that paved the road for television's arrival. It was striking to see just how ...more
May 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
This book hasn't aged well. Largely anecdotal and largely concerned with TV's one hegemonic position in American life, there are arguments to be made for at least the significant reduction and alteration of the nature of television, but this book either can't see them because it was written decades ago, breezes over them, or tags down on them but in a way that's unsupported by research. I recommend it only as a window into the past.
Dec 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Richard by: DJ Big Rick Stuart, I think
I'd almost say this book was transformative, but I suspect I was already on the path towards eliminating television from my life. Mander's arguments provided justification, but the pandering idiocy of most of the stuff on the airwaves was already sufficient. At this point, I haven't watched a significant amount of television in about ten years -- I did enjoy some of the first season of West Wing at a girlfriend's place, but since then there's only been the sporadic Simpsons show once or twice a ...more
Brent Leung
Nov 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I let this book collect dust for a few years, knowing that when I actually picked it up, the arguments would most likely be thought provoking, logical, and convincing enough to catalyze a major life change: the elimination of television (or Netflix) from my life.

And now after reading it and pondering the content — a change is coming! Four Argument for the Elimination of Television is a must read for everyone, especially people raising little ones.

But this book is about so much more than just t
Sep 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people with intellect
Where do I start? My whole life I have been a TV addict. My mother used to advise me strongly against it, but I would never listen. Recently I vowed not to watch TV. I was doing well, only watching when visiting others who were watching it. After reading this book I am bound and determined to never watch it again. I am not easily swayed, but Mr. Mander's arguments are true and to the point. He talks about the effects of the ingestion of artificial light, to the hyperactivity of children, to the ...more
Mar 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sociology
An essential but flawed book. This book is the perfect example of a book where 70 percent of it is 5 star material... but that 30 percent... whew... hence the 4 stars overall. Mander is at his best when he is talking about televisions effect on thinking, perception, and limitations as a medium. He is at his shakiest when he delves into pseudo-science to "strengthen" his arguments. Trust me... his good arguments are solid on their own merit and are in fact weakened when coupled with the flimsy pa ...more
May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
this is from 1977 so there are some parts that feel a bit dated, like the hippy back to nature vibes he sometimes has, and some quaint stuff about tvs having very low quality images. but mostly this is cool and it's funny that most of his arguments apply equally well if not more so to social media. throw a brick at your tv/phone/computer today!
Feb 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: folks who are trying to pry open their third eye
Shelves: use-your-head
This book changed my life.
It is the reason I decided to work at The Hand.
That and something about chain stores...and the man.
Jim Leckband
Jan 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Read this 30 years ago when I didn't even own a TV or watch much of it anyway, I was already a member of the choir. And at the time of my reading the FCC Fairness Doctrine was still mostly being honored.
Dec 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Old - and in many ways, very dated (!) - but brave and correct on the essentials, and additionally prophetic given contemporary issues of climate change, mobilization, and attention span politics. From the television to the Internet, the changes that only a few generations of humans have lived through is enough to make your head spin. In fact, it's a mistake to think your head isn't spinning, your eyes aren't rolling! Historical arguments such as this one help to provide a grounding in critical ...more
Sep 15, 2018 rated it liked it
This book was written in the late seventies, and is awash with its chronology. Mander frequently cites the inferiority of television’s image quality and the necessity of prosaic, dull programming that can conform to television’s poor standards. His ideological bent and optimistic sensibility also seems a little outdated, a little naive - though it is admirable, he expresses enviornmentalism as common sense...the future Mander imagines is not nearly so bright.

Despite quirks of the period, Mander
Oct 20, 2017 rated it did not like it
He makes a lot of arguments that can be applied to any story telling media including reading, try's to make vague justifications for reading over every other medium and IMO comes pretty short, worst part being that even if he addresses books and television he has yet to really adequately address comics and film which share many of the same "problems" he seems to have but that's what a bad case of favoritism will do to you. Complains about visual tricks and etc used in television to keep peoples ...more
Aug 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
I agree wholeheartedly that technology is a time-consuming habit that needs limited use. However, the author's view that television is basically the Trojan horse of the scientific/industrial/corporation/governmental conspiracy to turn us into brainwashed citizens was a bit far-fetched. He criticized both metropolitan and suburban living as a narrow, crushing environment that removes us from nature and our natural rhythms and behaviors. I found this ironic since he lived in San Francisco at the t ...more
Apr 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Hands down one of the best books I've ever read in my life. Jerry Mander's arguments are thought-provoking, rational, well researched and terrifying. After reading this book I see everything in my environment differently. Politics, homes, cleaning supplies, relationships, vehicles and jobs - I see them all in a new light. Modern media has effectively brainwashed the last three generations and turned Americans into drones; insatiable, product-consuming machines. I recommend this book to ANYONE th ...more
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2017 Reading Chal...: 1977 1 15 Nov 25, 2015 07:16PM  

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“The program is only the excuse to get you to watch the advertising. Without the ads there would be no programs. Advertising is the true content of television and if it does not remain so, then advertisers will cease to support the medium, and television will cease to exist as the popular entertainment it presently is.” 14 likes
“Living within artificial, reconstructed, arbitrary environments that are strictly the products of human conception, we have no way to be sure that we know what is true and what is not. We have lost context and perspective. What we know is what other humans tell us.” 7 likes
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