"Language in Thought and Action, Fifth Edition"
S. I. Hayakawa
A Harvest Original (1991)

Selected Notes

Chapter 15: The Empty Eye

"Now that TV's content has been determined and homogenized by the commercial impetus that once merely underlay the spectacle, and now that TV's basic purpose is to keep you watching, the images all point back to toward that now-imperceptible managerial intention. And because TV is, on the whole, devised by and for the same class and generation, it constitutes a vehicle of collective self-allurement and self-solace, so that the spectacle has all the eerie resonance of a great bad dream. TV images, furthermore, are all the richer in unconscious meanings for the increased sophistication of the visual technology that represents them. Calculated always to jolt the nerves of the half-attentive, the spectacle is less and less elaborately scripted and plotted, while more and more reliant on stark pictures and a lightning pace (along with infectious music), and one words as blunt as pictures. Such is the imperative behind all the ads and the newscasts, game shows and cartoons, and nearly all the talk shows, dramas, and sitcoms, so that TV's "concentrated volume of appeal" actually gives more and more away the more it tries to rush and dazzle us beyond understanding what it's all about." -- Mark Crispin Miller

Distinctions between types of programming that once were clear have become blurred. News programs, entertainment programs, and commercials have become more alike as competition for the public's attention has become more intense. Many commercials consist of vignettes, told in a kind of visual shorthand that creates dramatic suspense, which is released when characters buy or consume the product being advertised." p. 154

"... 'Reality Television' also uses the news format for crime stories and gossip once the exclusive province of supermarket "tabloids." p. 154 [my marginal note: 'Donald Trump predicted in 1990']

"Seeing is Believing"

The World Through a Keyhole

"Into America's Living Room"

"Film at 11:00"

"Go for the Gusto"

"What, Me Work?

    Combined with hour after hour of commercials offering instant gratification through purchasing and instant well-being through consumption, dramatic television's depiction of life adds up to a continuous display conspicuous consumption without visible means of support. Is it any wonder that, among the first generation of television-raised Americans, there have arisen groups -- from young urban professionals to inner-city drug dealers -- displaying a fascination with symbols of material wealth, in the form of German luxury cars, gold jewelry, and expensive watches? p. 162

After the Bad Guys"

The Casting of the President

    The CBS story was introduced by sub-anchor Charles Kuralt:

    As Robinson and Sheehan point out, the UPI print account focuses on the candidate and what he said, as well as on the role in politics of other elected officials, unions, churches, and ethnic groups. Listening to the words of the CBS piece, a viewer accustomed to television can easily imagine the accompanying pictures of the president walking in the Italian market, eating corned beef with the mayor, speaking to a black church group. The very words of Stahl's account emphasize the importance of images over traditional forms of political organization.
    Strictly speaking, to characterize President Carter's activities as "posing" is an inference, rather than a report, but Robinson and Sheehan quote a Carter press aide who later said that the Stahl piece "made me cringe ... she was absolutly right about the photo oportunities." Robinson and Sheehan said, "What keeps this piece from being labeled subjective is that no political observers, including the Carter people, think Stahl was wrong in her anaylysis. pp. 164-165

"... this example shows that the idea has been established for some time. Planning politial events to take maximum advantage of free television exposure means it no longer matters much what the candidate said to the people at the black church, the Italian market, or the corned-beef luncheon. Nor does it matter what they said to him. What campaign managers hope is that people watching television will see the candidate seeming to interact with people with whom the viewer can identify. The organizational work of traditional politics — reaching voters individually and in small groups, through speeches, personal contacts, and written accounts of statements and positions by the candidate — has been almost completely replaced by efforts to place the candidate in front of television cameras." pp. 165-166

Brain Surgery -- The Video

"... If humanity had used writing in the same limited way we use television, we would have created for ourselves little more than tabloid newspapers and comic books." p. 167