Not Your TV, Monkey

Okay, so I’m a big fan of Make magazine. I’m a charter subscriber, I have all the issues, etc., etc. In general, I find it a pretty neat operation with lots of things to interest me.

One reoccurring theme does bug me, however: the continuing fascination with the TV-B-Gone. In case you’re unfamiliar, I'll give you the condensed backstory. Some nit with no self-control apparently cannot be in a public space with a television on and ignore it. He is compelled by the evil mid control rays emitted by the demon box to sit and stare blankly at the moving pictures and pretty lights. So he invented a device that turns TVs off. Before you ask, I’m not joking. This is his own account, slightly paraphrased, of why he invented the thing in the first place.

Leaving aside the issues the account displays about the inventor, I have no problem with the device. A small remote control cycles through eleventy billion power codes for TVs when you push the button. Neat. There’s some slickness I can admire in the design and execution.

What grates on me is the absolute sense of entitlement the whole episode displays. I don’t like TVs being on in public spaces, so I’ll turn them off. Fuck everybody who might have been watching the TV, it annoys me, so off it goes! The idea that your wants and desires are more important than those of everybody else in the facility makes you a pretentious douchebag with an overdeveloped sense of self-importance.

Here’s a way to deal with it: don’t hang in places that have TVs on all the time. Real hard, right? Alternatively, you can always sit facing away from the TV, ask somebody to turn the volume down, or just ignore the idiot box. Seriously, they’re not magic. You can ignore them.

Honestly, this would be a petty annoyance and all would be well and good except Make keeps beating this horse. Buy a TV-B-Gone! Oh, wait, people notice when you point your remote at the TV and it goes off. They then throw you out of their establishment. Problem solved! Build it into a hat! Or a sweatshirt! So you can turn TVs off and not get caught at it! Because sometimes, that has bad consequences.

Okay, TVs annoy you. I get it. I didn’t own a TV until I got married. TVs are primarily useful to me as display devices for my electronics. If I wasn’t married, I wouldn’t even have cable. I have no problem if you don’t like them either. But guess what? If it’s not your TV in your house, you have as much business turning it off as I do dumping a bottle of water on smokers. Somewhere in your whole solipsistic narrative about how TVs are teh debbil, you missed the point where other people like them. Just because people like or do something you don’t like doesn’t give you the right to interfere with them. Your right to tell people what to do is limited to your property. To turn one of Make’s dicta on ownership upside down, if you don’t own it, don’t open it. How hard is that as a concept?

I’ve read a bunch of bullshit justifications from guerrilla activist culture-jammers about why this is somehow noble and is an attempt to take back public spaces and yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah. If you've written one of these justifications, be honest with yourself. Your high-minded nonsense scribblings are rationalizations to dress up your own prejudices. Bottom line is TVs annoy you and you feel like you should be able to turn them off anytime, anywhere, despite what anybody else thinks. Make spends a lot of time pushing things that are empowering, creative, and return control of technology to the individual. The TV-B-Gone is none of these. The TV-B-Gone in practice runs against everything else Make claims to uphold. Frankly, the continued championing of a device which exists to let you be a controlling asshat is disappointing.

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Blogger Ted Amadeus said...

Gee, kinda' like banning smoking in bars!
To the mulleted, effeminate, mealy-mouthed Birkenstock-wearers who cheered that bullshit on, I say

11:45 PM  

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