In 1983 one of my sisters turned up at the door of my bedsit flat and attempted to give me a small black and white television set as a gift.
Now, my sister was perfectly well aware of the fact that I didn't like television and had chosen to live without a TV because I preferred reading books. In spite of this the silly woman went out of her way to bring a television set to my door and to argue that I ought to accept the gift or she would be 'insulted'. She was also aware of the fact that, in this country, it is necessary to buy a television licence if you even own a TV, regardless of whether you watch the set or not. Nevertheless, her argument was that it is 'normal' to watch television and if I didn't have one I wouldn't be 'normal'.
Well, I did my usual speech on the subject of 'normality' regarded as the pathology of the average and I commented on the irony of trying to force someone to take a TV set in 1983 (as 1984 approached and Big Brother would be waiting in the wings).
Upset, my sister left the TV on the doorstep so that I would be forced to pick it up and put it in the dustbin.
A few months later I went to stay temporarily with another of my three sisters and her husband who attempted to make me sit and watch television with them because this was supposed to be 'normal'.
A few years later again, when I had to appear in court, charged with 'obstructing the police in the course of their duty' because I had argued with four policemen who were beating up a friend of mine, the prosecuting solicitor asked me whether I had a television licence. I replied that I didn't own a television. The question was repeated 'You haven't got a television licence, have you Mr. Smith?' to which I again replied that I didn't own a television. 'EVERYBODY watches television!!!' howled the prosecutor, a woman who was imitating Margaret Thatcher in voice, mannerisms, clothing and hairstyle.
So I've long had reason to be suspicious about television. I eventually acquired a television in the 1990s but, even now, the brainwashing aspects of the thing worry me. And then there's mobile telephony. The way people say to me 'What? You don't have a mobile?' with that same tone of incredulity in their voice is just like the way they were in the 80s about the bloomin' idiot box.
I think the internet is our salvation from mass media. Mass media: something everybody is expected to watch, as opposed to individualised media: the freedom to make our own video, audio, text and graphics and entertain each other across the web 2.0. Phew! We're lucky to have the web.
The next thing I'm worried about is 'The Grid'. Will the grid remove the freedom given to us by the web?