Plato’s TV

We are headed to Montana for an impromptu class reunion (made possible by the existence of Facebook), plus some time away from electronic signals thereafter. Things will be slow around here.

I have long struggled with Plato’s Cave Allegory, and so tried to update it a bit here, hopefully having a grasp of its significance in our age. Television supplies reality for most Americans, and is the medium by which most of our lies are facilitated. Most people don’t read, but then, I don’t really understand why printed lies are not as effective as televised ones. I have been able to sort my way through the lies of our times [even though books lie], but it has taken many years and I have swallowed whole on many lies in the process. It is a game of musical chairs, new lies taking the place of old ones, until such time that truth settles in. Possibly.

With TV, a lie like 9/11 or Boston, told but once, sticks forever. TV has such persuasive power that people cannot fathom actors staging events for our benefit. It’s a confidence game. The underlying belief of Americans, no matter how much skepticism they profess, is that if something is on TV and labeled “news” it is true.

Given the power of such a medium, there is no way the state would let it operate unfettered. So naturally the American television media is state-controlled. Americans might believe such a thing about Cuba or North Korea, but never their own country. That’s part of the lie.

 TV owns reality. Since government controls TV content, government owns reality.

Below I have plagiarized the Wikipedia entry on the Cave Allegory, making changes as needed.

The Allegory of the Television (also titled Plato’s TV)

Plato in his work The Republic (514a–520a) sought to compare “…the effect of education and the lack of it on our nature”. It is written as a dialogue between Plato’s brother Glaucon and his mentor Socrates, narrated by the latter.

Plato has Socrates describe a gathering of people who have lived chained to a couch all of their lives, facing a television. The people watch images on the TV screen and begin to designate names to these images. The images are as close as the couch prisoners get to viewing reality. He then explains how the dissident is like a prisoner who is freed from the couch and comes to understand that the images on the screen do not make up reality at all. Away from the television, the prisoner can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere images seen by the couch prisoners.

Our perception of the world around is habitation on a couch with the screen’s light reflecting throughout the home. Our view of the real world only comes into focus once we abandon our televisions.


For reasons unknown the following video seems apropos. Tim Russert, considered one of the best of show in his time, is either acting out a script or swallowing whole on a Rumsfeld routine (performed during the time after 9/11 when people were still in shock).  Seen with a proper dose of skepticism, it is hilarious.

9 thoughts on “Plato’s TV

        1. Here’s a few books that I remember thinking after that they had important content: Atlas Shrugged, if for no other reason Rand’s dictum that there are no contradictions, only faulty premises. That sticks with me to this day. All of Orwell‘s works are good, although his essays are better than his fiction, but all are important works. Likewise, Ed Abbey‘s fiction was horrible IMO, but his essays, especially his river diaries, are so relaxing, he was so full of irreverent wisdom. Chomsky shocked me out of my stupor, so anything by him. Jacqes Ellul’s Propaganda, for his detached treatment of the subject as practiced in the US, USSR and China. We need that detached overview. Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope is a huge book and seems to cover everything and leaves so many questions. Armstrong’s Harvey and Lee, for its amazing attention to detail and dogged pursuit of truth, left Me impressed with the author … The man simply does not let go until he gets to the bottom of things, even minute details.

          I suppose others will occur to me. Why don’t you do me the return favor.


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