I was thinking this morning of FCC Chairman Newton Minow’s speech to the National Association of Broadcasters, May 9, 1961:
When television is good, nothing – not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers – nothing is better.
But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there without a book, magazine, newspaper, profit-and-loss sheet or rating book to distract you – and keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that you will observe a vast wasteland.
You will see a procession of game shows, violence, audience-participation shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western badmen, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence and cartoons. And, endlessly, commercials – many screaming, cajoling and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you will see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, try it.
I wasn’t thinking of television, though, when the phrase “vast wasteland” popped into my head. I was thinking of Facebook.
When I visit Facebook, I don’t get updates from family and friends. I get deceptive, provocative headlines designed to lure people to pseudo-journalistic junk articles on pages festooned with ads. I get stock photos of children, animals, sunsets, etc., etc., captioned with inspirational treacle. I get retro-looking cartoons, featuring a Gibson Girl or a 1950s housewife, captioned with something edgy, profane and distinctly unfunny.
It’s all clickbait. I hate it.
I wish there were a way to hide / block / banish from my timeline forever all third-party content.