Mind control? Not in Hardyville!
By Claire Wolfe
It had been another meeting of the official unofficial Hardyville Y2K committee. That is, it was supposed to have been. Somehow these meetings seem to keep getting disrupted. This time it was kids. Screaming brats, to put it bluntly.
A new couple who'd moved here from the City, Mary and Marty, had been invited to the meeting, and they'd showed up with three animals who shrieked, chased, hit, whined, pulled, fidgeted, cried and fought their way through our attempted meeting. Marty seemed not to notice them, while Mary, brushing at her hair, made occasional noises about hyperactivity, attention deficit and not wanting to quash their natural impulses.
Our unofficial Y2K official, Carty, (still with us despite his threats to leave the country) tended to business as best he could, calling for quiet now and then. He was unusually patient with these people, who he apparently knew. But you could see just how much he wanted to quash something or another.
At the end of the meeting, a few of us sat around finishing up what passes for food at the Hog Trough, where we hold our meetings. Marty was sitting there, huddled, not having said a word all night, while Mary tried to pry little Juniors and Juniorette off the ceiling tiles. And that's when Carty drew us all in and started speaking in a conspiratorial whisper.
"I just learned something," he rasped, looking especially at Marty. "It'll give you the creeps, and you won't want to believe it. But it's true. They're doing something to our children."
Huh? It wasn't like Carty to speak of anonymous "theys." We all bent forward to listen.
"Here's what they do. It's happening all over the country. I know it sounds crazy, but I can prove it. Every day when we're not thinking about them, strange adults put our kids into darkened rooms where they make them stare at flickering lights until their brains go into something scientists say looks like hypnosis. It would scare you if you saw what happened next. After your kid has stared for just a few seconds, he goes from being an active, noisy, normal kid to just sitting there, like a rag doll. Like an empty thing, waiting to be stuffed.
"This is just what the strange adult wants. The next thing, images and messages begin to pour into your kids' half-asleep minds. Messages like, 'Only bad people own guns.' 'People can't take care of themselves. Government has to do it.' 'If you don't buy the right things, no one will like you.' 'Diversity means everybody looks different, but thinks alike,' 'The world is a scary place; your leaders are the only ones who can protect you.'
"This crap pours into your kid's head hour after hour, and even though your kid seems to be awake, he isn't really thinking, just sucking in sounds and images. What's really weird is, even though it looks like he could get up and walk away, he acts like he has to sit there. And he does. It's not just the propaganda messages that are getting to him, either. The main message is to learn to just sit there, sucking other people's stuff in instead of finding your own stuff out.
"It scares the hell out of me. It really does."
There was a bang and a shout from the vicinity of the kitchen. Mary rushed in that direction as Carty went on.
"If you've noticed your kids acting real grouchy or bored or mad or unable to sit still for a minute, this might just be the reason," he concluded, looking hard at Marty. "All this hyper this-and-that stuff ... it might have a lot to do with these strange people making them stare at flickering lights for hours, doing nothing while a whole lot of stuff flashes, real fast and frantic, in front of their eyes. Every day, I'm telling you. Every single day!"
Marty just looked uncomfortable under Carty's Jesse Ventura gaze, for a while. But finally someone else spoke up.
"Oh, Carty, that's a bunch of paranoid bullfeathers and you know it. There's no 'strange adults' doing things like that to our kids."
"There's not? But I said I could prove it, didn't I?"
"Prove it, then."
"Okay, what do your children do, with your blessing, the minute they come home from school?"
"They turn on the. ... Oh, shoot, Carty. You're not talking about any strange adults. You're just talking about watching TV."
"Any parent who'd plunk his kids in front of an electronic hypnosis box every day for hours seems strange enough to me. Doesn't it to you?"
"But you made it sound like a cult or a gummint plot or something. It's just harmless entertainment."
By now, Mary had scraped Junior Number One off the light fixture and was in a corner, limply trying to persuade Juniorette it wasn't nice to peel off the restaurant's wagon wheel wallpaper.
"We personally never let the children watch anything violent or with too much sex in it," Mary half boasted, half protested from the corner, where Junior Number Two had begun smearing someone's leftover food onto a tabletop.
"So it's OK for them to watch four hours of ABC News and Sesame Street while they're hypnotized, instead?" Carty asked.
"We're always very conscious about their TV watching," Mary said, untangling Junior Number One from a customer's legs. "We discuss what they've seen afterwards."
"I'm sure you've got some real good discussers there," Carty deadpanned.
Marty finally spoke, "It keeps them quiet."
"Back in the Victorian days, people used to keep their kids quiet by giving 'em opium, you know. Maybe that was a better idea. At least the poor kids got to think their own thoughts. It didn't drive them out of control afterward, either."
"Carty," Dora said, "I don't like the influence of TV that much. But we all survived it when we were kids. Aren't you exaggerating the impact?"
Carty waved around the distinctly middle-aged crowd. "Most of us here didn't start in on it when we were babies. You been paying attention to things like test scores, attention deficit disorders and decreases in just plain old logical reasoning ability since we had our first complete TV-baby generation? Flickering lights, man. These kids got flickering lights on the brain. It makes some of 'em stupid and dull, and some of 'em stupid and crazy."
At that moment, a tray smashed to the floor, as one of the Juniors -- I lost track this time -- crashed into Janelle-the-waitress at a dead run. Mary rushed over. Juniorette also dashed over to pick on brother, slid on spilled soup and began to scream as though her head had been cut off -- which, in fact, some of us were beginning to wish it had. Carty just leaned back, shook his head and mused aloud, "TV babies. TV babies."
"They're just high-spirited!" Mary snapped. "They're perfectly normal children and I don't have to take these insults from you! It doesn't have anything to do with TV."
"Really," someone whispered amid the chaos. "She might just be out of control of them. It happened before TV, too, you know."
"So how much TV do you let them watch?" Carty persisted.
"None of your business. Just none of your business!"
"That much, huh? How come?"
"You are the most obnoxious, nosy man! ... "
"Cheaper than opium, is it? Easier to deliver the dose, too, I'll bet. But boy, those aftereffects."
"Comon, Marty," Mary snarled, lifting 'Ette out of the morass by one arm and dragging whichever Junior by another. "We don't have to put up with this."
Marty looked vaguely around, wondering if he might be responsible for another child, but seemingly unable to remember which or where. He started to rise, in an equally vague way.
Carty reached out and laid a hand on his arm. "This is TV turnoff week," he said by way of casual information. "Starting today."
Marty spoke for the final time. "We can't stop them from watching TV," he almost whispered. "We can't do that."
"Well, then, you've got an even worse problem than you know, don't you?" Carty shrugged. "Good luck."
The Mary-Martys and eventually the entire congeries of Juniors finally gathered themselves and exited, with only minor additional damage to the premises. Everyone enjoyed a moment of quiet. But finally Carty noted, "I've just got one problem with TV turnoff week. It ought to last all year. I mean, I'm not saying ban the box or anything. I'm just saying most people don't use TV. It uses them. And their kids. Groupthink and groupsit. And I've never seen so much denial about anything in my life. TV freaks make alcoholics sound sensible."
"But television is a vital information source," Dora objected. "It's also part of our cultural cohesion."
"Hey, read a book. Read an Internet. Start your own culture. The main thing is, who the hell needs a box that hypnotizes you so big corporations and governments can send messages straight into your brain? Have a life. Have a family. And by the way, anyone who wants to join me in bringing their TV sets to the shooting range this Saturday is more than welcome. Targets is one thing they're really good for."
If you think you need your TV set -- particularly for the sake of your children, you might want to read The Plug-In Drug: Television, Children & the Family by Marie Winn. Another provocative, though flawed, book about the influence of television is Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander.
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