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Influence of Television

October 01, 1994

Prof. Donella Meadows' cogent essay on the "junk media" (Commentary, Sept. 22) reflected on the influence of popular TV fare as the great American cultural distorter and purveyor.

One aspect not stressed enough, however, is that the pat circumstances and solutions contrived by the medium's scriptwriters have become the twisted reality and expectations of two generations.

By encapsulating life's dramas into neat little segments, the programmers have numbed impressionable minds to the day-to-day cultural influences from which we draw the perspectives to discern truth, realize goals and cope with adversity. TV rarely, if ever, focuses on the intellectual dues that its larger-than-life characters surely must pay before plying their skills in the improbable scenarios.

It should surprise no one when today's youth, residing half their lives in TV's never-never land, on facing life's unscripted roadblocks, should cry that "reality sucks."

SAUL LISKIN

Santa Monica

*

Meadows points out that " . . . our blasted minds have lost the distinction between free political speech, which is essential to democracy, and free commercial speech, which can undermine democracy along with everything else worthwhile."

I utterly agree. But although the junk media have been dancing on the grave of that particular distinction ever since, it was actually destroyed by the Supreme Court in 1976.

In the case of Buckley vs. Valeo, the court ruled that campaign spending expresses political opinion and is thus an exercise of freedom of speech, which the Bill of Rights forbids Congress to abridge. Insofar as the decision lets millionaire candidates spend as much of their own money as they please to buy brilliant TV ads and thus buy themselves seats in Congress, it has been comparatively harmless, though exasperatingly unfair. But it also created a bullet-proof legal disguise for both "undue influence" (meaning bribery) and for overwhelming interference in other people's elections.

This had previously been considered illegal under the "shall be chosen by" language and some other instructions in the main body of the Constitution.

FRANCES WEISMILLER

Santa Barbara

*

As an ex-nanny, I cannot tell you the number of children I have seen mimic an action or verbal expression seen on TV. This country is like a child playing with a toy, and the toy is the First Amendment. This has not just been about private industries' freedom of speech. This has been about the freedom of the rich versus the freedom of the poor, and the "poor" is beginning to mean all of us in the mental sense. I believe in freedom of speech, but what about the freedom to be free of this mental contamination?

MICHELLE ESHBAUGH

Manhattan Beach

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