Too little, too late
With reference to: Reading (Gasp) for Enlightenment, Without Snobbery or Shame by Edward Rothstein (New York Times, Sept. 8, 2001)
Dear Mr. Rothstein,
Are you some kind of a communist? Trying to smuggle the western canon back in and get people to read books, particularly “good” ones? We have just concluded decades convincing the public that to read “good books” is to become ensnared in nets of racial and gender oppression, cast down by white males, mostly dead. That argument was, of course, just a ruse – a ruse contrived to move discretionary time away from books and squarely onto the tube. We wanted people watching and buying. Our challenge was to figure out how to get them to do that. We thought our Political Correctness ploy a masterstroke of unmitigated genius. Now here you come, a spoiler, scheming to get them off the couch and into the library. Get this into your red head – reading books, particularly good ones, is an activity which will seriously cut into TV watching. TV girds the economy (something not to be messed with just at the present moment). If people spend time reading instead of watching, sales will plummet. They won’t buy so much. Just when we are moving to undreamed of levels of persuasion, hidden and otherwise, moving to new assaults that render the mind incapable of sustaining quiet, non-sound-biting bouts of reading, you come along with a rather convincing and graceful counter-assault. Well, forget it. We’ve won.
Look, just last week the Times reported on events that signal empyrean achievements. We have fetched taste and vocabulary out of the toilet such that it will make them go “yeah, yeah – this is us – we’re all the same – we all do that” and they will run each other over on the way to the store. Praise the TV’s fighting exec Steven Bochco. He comes victoriously forward in his struggle to permit “shit” to be uttered (As Cable Applies, Pressure, Network TV Spouts Expletives, Sept. 2, 2001). He is an advocate and missionary – a noble soldier in our war against reading. We salute him and hoist a few in his name. More victories are coming down the pike. I predict we’ll be able to show child porn and live killing on prime time very soon. It makes me tremble to contemplate the soaring ratings. In shaping public appetite for sex, scatology and violence and teaching it to have attention spans measured in milliseconds, we are winning our fight against books – all kinds. At some point we may even be even able to do away with the PC ploy.
As we, the media, continue to consolidate and merge (Court Weighs Easing Limits on Big Media, Sept 7, 2001), our united and uniform front against reading becomes irreversible. Why, just the other day on Tuesday, Sept 4, MTV, with a permit from the Mayor, took over Pier 54 at the end of 14th ST. At 11pm, the volume of “music” was so high that at least 150 complaints were lodged with police and the Quality of Life Office. We are in grateful awe of this successful attack by MTV and the Mayor aimed at any reader holdouts. No way to read with that many decibels. Some residents took to the streets screaming in search of quiet. Fortunately, MTV was able to keep full control of the entire neighborhood till midnight, even though it was a school night. Rothstein, there’s no going back now. Even if readers and potential readers of good books shed snobbery and shame – successful consequences of our PC ploy – your campaign is too little and too late.
Media United Inc.
Sharon Girard, New York City Sept 10, 2001