Whales can’t sue


Some wit has designed TV-B-Gone, a TV remote that has only one function: To turn TVs off. He got so annoyed at the omnipresence of TVs in public venues that he collected the “power off” commands for dozens of units and put them in a single keyfob device. Point it at the TV in your local bar during the Red Sox/Yankees game, hit the button, and presto: The TV will go dead. And so will you, since when people discover you’re turning their TV off in the middle of game they’ll beat you into a bloody pulp.

Which brings us to real cultural meat of this subject. The TV-B-Gone is interesting, but not half so interesting as the furious debate it provokes about the role of TV in society. Wired News hung out with an anti-TV activist who used it to click off a huge bank of TVs at Euro Disney:

“It fills you with naughty laughter to know you did this and other people have no idea what happened,” Burke said. People around him noticed that the screens had turned off, but no one raised a fuss.

Meanwhile, the Gizmodo editor tore the inventor a new orifice in a hilarious posting:

… TV-B-Gone has a single purpose: to power off televisions whenever the user feels like being a dick. [snip] Maybe after making his tens of dozens of dollars on the TV-B-Gone, Altman can invent a gadget that transports self-important cocks who think they’re waging a subversive culture war to a log cabin coffee shop where they can reassure each other how awesome they are for hating television.

And on and on the opinions go. Some bloggers point out that they are “easily mesmerized” by TVs in public places, and thus “philosophically love the idea”; others cackle ironically loving TV-B-Gone because “I can piss people off and impose my views on others — then I’ll be a one-man Government!”

It’s kind of amazing. Even the most blood-soaked video games don’t cause this sort of cultural agon. But sixty years on into its mainstreaming, TV is still a ferociously love-it-or-hate-it proposition.

(Thanks to Parker Morse for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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