Am I the only one who seethes upon entering a waiting room or gym dominated by a babbling television? I suspect we are the majority. But what to do? I recently learned about an ingenious culture-jamming technology – TV-B-Gone – a device that enables anyone to reclaim TV-saturated public spaces for ordinary real life.
TV-B-Gone is a remote control device that can turn off TV sets in bars, airports and stores. It was invented by San Francisco engineer Mitch Altman, and sells for $15. Hate that CNN blather and blaring ads while waiting in the airport lounge? Wish you could talk to your friend in the restaurant without Bill O’Reilly bloviating and hucksters pitching? Zap! Ah, quiet! Adbusters magazine says it has sold 2,500 of the devices since its release last October. Now is a timely moment to buy one: This week (April 23-May1) is national TV Turnoff Week.
In an interview with Salon today, Adbusters editor-in-chief Kalle Lasn explains how using TV-B-Gone to banish TV from public spaces is like breaking an evil spell:
I go to a bank every Saturday here in Vancouver. When I’m standing in line I have this group of three TV sets that I’m looking at, whether I like it or not. Last Saturday, I had my TV-B-Gone with me while I was standing in line, and I pressed the button and I switched those TVs off. It was a beautiful moment. It was a moment where I felt that we were in control, rather than the bank with its TV sets.
People’s reactions were interesting. Before, everybody was kind of standing there with their heads slightly lifted toward the TV sets. Nobody was talking to each other. But a few seconds after those TVs went off, people were suddenly talking to each other and looking around. It felt like real life again. It was an epiphany – and the bank didn’t even notice.
Whether you use a TV-B-Gone or the “off” switch, TV Turnoff Week is a welcome occasion to shut down an addictive, all-encompassing alternative reality – television – that has many unpleasant and anti-social effects (aggressiveness, obesity, social isolation, over-consumption, etc.).