Having just written America Needs a Renaissa, I was in no mood for Orwellian indignities. Traveling through three airports the other day, I had finally had it – not with the patdowns and security lines, but with the mandatory television.
I stopped into a store to grab a magazine, and there was CNN, unavoidable, blaring over my head. I went to my gate and there was CNN, staring at me, out-talking everyone trying to have a conversation, overriding anyone trying to read a book or use an iPhone. I arrived at my connecting airport, got to the gate to discover the flight was delayed and sat down in the only area available – under a particularly loud airing of CNN.
Of course, airports aren’t the only places where television is mandatory. Children’s clothing stores stupefy curious, energetic children with TV. Doctors offices subdue restless patients with TV. Office lobbies, takeout counters, hotel dining areas, even school and university “common spaces” keep things institutional (as opposed to personal) with TV.
But mandatory television watching in airports is political as well as institutional. On just my single travel day, CNN personalities highlighted the Patraeus sex scandal while having virtually ignored the Benghazi scandal; bemoaned the inadequate “local” response to Hurricane Sandy, despite having let the mayor of New Orleans completely off the hook in their rush to blame the response to Hurricane Katrina entirely on George W. Bush; and insinuated that the “fiscal cliff” could be avoided simply through higher taxes, having never emphasized the immutable problems created by reckless spending and borrowing.
And so, in the spirit of “America Needs a Renaissance,” I spoke out. But I hadn’t realized the irony when I ended that post by saying we needed to be more brave; at the airport, Brave New World came to mind. I asked the attendant at the gate to turn the TV off or down. You know the response. She “couldn’t.”