How I fixed my moral dilemma with cable TV

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Happy Sunday, everyone. Before I begin, it should be noted that the following is not a self-congratulatory post, nor is it a smug wink, written with the express purpose of showing off an “achievement” I deem worthy of praise for I really hate these kinds of articles. Readers of Slate, or Huffington Post will understand what I am talking about. You know the one’s that talk about the author’s achievement as if no one else has or can pull this off. “I went a year without Sex” is one that sets my teeth on edge (big deal sister, try six). “I went a year without makeup”. Is the author of this one unaware that some women go a lifetime without makeup? What kind of award do you give yourself for this?

No, it is not my purpose to show off something I did. I want to get us talking about the influence cable TV has on the American culture and how this can change. I am hoping to start a conversation about our complicity in the rise of Televison human garbage.

It is no secret that even in the early days of Television, the influence was front and center. TV was free to American consumers because advertisers flocked to the medium when they realized the gold mine that it offered. Unlike radio, TV displayed Americans the goods and services they “needed”. Thanks in large part to this new visual medium, America become a culture of consumers. We not only bought into the idea that we needed what we saw on TV, we bought into the idea that we needed TV as part of our everyday life. It quickly became the norm to not only own a TV, but to see it as our main source of entertainment and news.

I cannot deny that TV has been a valuable source of news and education. We got to watch the Moon landing thanks to TV, and the Civil Rights movement succeeded to change the hearts and minds of people who otherwise would never witness the brutality of segregation. TV has opened our eyes to far away lands and different cultures. As much as our lives have been enriched by Television, there is a new emerging ugly side to it. And it’s where I’ve hit my personal wall. Between the rising cost of cable and the crap shows forced upon us, I just can’t stomach the idea of supporting the cable industry any longer, or at least in the way they want me to.

How we received television has drastically changed over the last 30 years. As stated before, television was once free, as corporations looking for innovated ways to enter our homes supported the industry. But slowly over time, the cable industry began to double dip; much like drug dealers they freely introduced us to their product, then once hooked, began to charge us for content. And, because the medium is so ingrained in our culture, we willingly pay whatever price they set, even though the industry is making record profits. Cable TV is a billion dollar industry thanks to our willingness to pay up. I can’t support this anymore.

We all complain about the lack of quality television and the crap that is forced down our throats, yet how many of us, including me, really take the time to think about our complicity in this? Even if we don’t watch the shows we complain about, our willingness to support the industry allows them to continue to feed us garbage. This idea hit home for me when the Duggar scandal hit the fan.

The idea of cutting the cord had been playing in my head for a few months now, but because I enjoy some shows, I hesitated to do what a lot of my friends have already done. I will be the first to admit that some times, TV is my brain candy of choice. I was weighing the dollar value of TV when the scandal hit. I’ve longed complained that TCL, once a great learning channel, now spews out nothing but garbage. But it never occurred to me that in a small way, I supported it. Learning that TCL pulled the show, but has yet to cancel it made me think about my support of the industry and all the other human garbage cable TV has given us. It hit me that even though I don’t keep up with the Kardashians, in a way I support their lifestyle by giving Charter Communications my hard earned money. I cannot and will not support them any longer. I will not be complicit to the moral degradation of our society any longer.

My moral dilemma did not start with the Duggars, just as they are not the first to use their celebrity status as a mouthpiece for the homophobic or racist cause. We had the Duck Dynasty and Paula Dean incidents long before the Duggars’ scandal. But between learning about Josh, and Michelle’s robo calls, I felt compelled to weigh the moral value of cable television. It came up wanting.

As I said, some times TV is my brain candy of choice. Let’s face it, as a single working woman, I often find myself in front of my television on a Saturday night. But now, thanks to new innovations I don’t have to completely give up TV. I will not cut my nose to spite my face, but I will cut the cord in order to be able to look at myself in the mirror. Cable TV, you are dead to me. And if you don’t think they care, think again. Because I guarantee you, if we start cutting en masse, the industry will take notice.

When I called Chart Communications and told the rep I was unsubscribing he immediately transferred me to a supervisor who tried to assure me that their product was valuable to me. For a second I felt like a cult follower who was caught trying to leave the compound. The supervisor warned me (yes warned!) that if I subscribed to a satellite company, the experience would be terrible. She went on to list the horrors of satellite TV. I laughingly cut her off; “I didn’t say anything about satellite TV, lady. I simply want to unsubscribe from cable, as I will no longer support human garbage or pay for channels I do not watch. I bought a Roku, and subscribed to HBO Now. Instead of paying you $113.00 a month, I will have all the entertainment I need for around $30.00 a month, none of which will go to TLC or E Entertainment”. There was a moment of stunned silence from the other end. “Oh, okay, well then, I all I can say, is thank you for being a customer”. I could picture her running to her boss, whispering, “a 50 year old lady has figured out how to live without cable. What the hell is going on? Are the end of days coming?”

Yes, I hope for the cable industry it is. I hope more and more Americans figure out that rather than complain about, yet continue to support the industry, there is something they can do without completely giving up the medium. There is a way to shovel the human garbage and constant advertisements. The industry is changing, and if we are willing, we can change who we will and how much we are willing to pay support them.

 

7 things you may not know about Smokey Bear

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If you’ve grownup in America this picture is very familiar to you. Smokey Bear is one of the most recognizable icons of American culture along side Santa Clause and Mickey Mouse. But how much do you really know about this beloved bear? Today marks Smokey’s 70th birthday, so I give you..

7 things you may not know about Smokey Bear

They call me Smokey Bear!

When the general public refers to him he is usually called “Smokey the Bear”, but this would be wrong. His actual name is Smokey Bear. The confusion began in 1952, when Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins wrote a song in his honor and added a “the” between “Smokey” and “Bear”.

His real origins

Many believe Smokey’s story started in 1950, when a small badly burned bear cub was found in the aftermath of a wildfire in the Lincoln National Forest, New Mexico. His story made headlines and captivated the country. The young bear was given the name “Smokey” and was used to bolster the image and propaganda of Wildfire prevention. Sadly, instead of nursing him back to health and then releasing him back into the wild, Smokey spend his remaining days as an exhibit in the Washington D.C. National Zoo. After his death in 1975, he was buried in the newly named Smokey Bear Historical state park, near the place of his “rescue”. This is the story the U.S. Forest Service sells in everything from Smokey comic books to school visits by Smokey (minus the zoo encampment part) but this isn’t the truth.

 

One of the first ad posters
One of the first ad posters

The image of Smokey Bear was first used in 1944, as part of the War Department’s effort to get Americans involved in an anti-terrorism campaign. For reasons never fully explained, the government was afraid our enemies might fly over and start forest fires. The government wanted its citizens to be on the lookout for such fires. As part of their “We must treat them like children” campaign, the government came up with this poster in order to capture the American public’s attention.

Smokey’s love life?

In 1962, the National Zoo brought in a female bear named Goldie in the hopes that the aging bear would produce an heir. No such luck. Smokey must of ended up in Goldie’s “friend zone”, because no offspring came of their pairing. An “adopted” son was given to the couple so Smokey could retire. The subject of grandchildren never came up.

He receives how much fan mail?

The living image of Smokey Bear became so popular with American school children he was given his own Washington DC zip code of 20252 in 1964.

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Use this stamp when mailing your letters.

In 1984, the U.S. Postal Service created a postage stamp with the image of a small bear clinging to a tree in celebration of Smokey’s 40th birthday. This is the only time the postal service has honored an individual animal.

Changing catch phrases

The campaign’s original catch phrase was “Smokey Says – Care Will Prevent 9 out of 10 Forest Fires.” In 1947 it was changed to “Remember… Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires.” Most recently, in 2001, it was again modified to “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires” in response to a massive outbreak of wildfires in natural areas other than forests.

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A talking bear?

When Smokey was first introduced in recorded media (TV and radio) he did not say anything other than his signature catch phrase. To the disappointment to thousands of children nation wide, when making public appearances he does not talk. Sometimes as he walks away he may utter the line “Remember children, only you can prevent forest fires”. The Forest Service is very clear on this rule. Smokey is not allowed to talk. His “handler” does the talking for him. When working for the Nevada Division of Forestry I found out about the rules of the Forest Service pertaining to Smokey’s use. Only government entities like state forest departments are authorized to use his image.

Smokey has jumped on the social media bandwagon. He has a Twitter handle and his own Facebook page. Here you can find Smokey “talking”, yet on audio media he remains quiet. He gives out silent hugs on Youtube.

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And now you know! Happy Birthday Smokey