by Alan Forrester
Suppose that somebody told you that if you were exposed to a particular pattern of flickering, coloured lights it would cause you later to take unwise or immoral actions without being able to control yourself. You might well be sceptical. After all, how a person responds to a pattern of flickering light is dependent on their interpretation of that light.
Consider, for example, a red light. If the red light is on a police car and the person viewing it is a criminal, then it might inspire fear in the criminal because he interprets the red light as signifying that might be arrested. If a person is looking at a flashing red light inside a nuclear power station then it might signify an emergency and might inspire fear. Conversely it could inspire bravery since the person might think that he must rescue somebody who cannot get out on his own. If the red light is in a bedroom, then it might inspire amorous feelings.
Now suppose the red light spells out the word “kill”. Will people tend to go out on killing sprees if they see such lights? Obviously not. Imagine that you live in a flat and you roommate knows you don't like horror films and is mocking you, in which case you might be either annoyed or amused. So even when the light carries a message, how a person reponds to it is dependent on their interpretation of it.
Furthermore, a person may change their interpretation of the red light, with or without a message, very rapidly indeed. For example, if the criminal sees that the policemen have come to arrest somebody else, on whom he has planted evidence, then he may reinterpret the flashing on the police car as reassuring. If the red light in the bedroom is on because the bulb has blown and she is replacing it with an unsuitable spare because she has flu, then his interpretation of the red light may no longer make him amorous.
However, now a study from the University of Washington in Seattle claims that toddlers who watch too much television have attention deficit problems in later life and that parents should limit their child's access to television:
Already we see conclusions being drawn which have no basis in the study. If brain development is relevant at all, it could equally well be that a bad television programme has less effect on people who have no idea what it is about because their brains aren't yet up to it. As usual, psychologists draw conclusions not from experiment but from their own prior assumptions, and then present them as is they were consequences of a corroborated scientific theory.
The data from 2,500 children covered by the study found that they watched an average of 2.2 hours per day at age 1 and 3.6 hours per day at age 3. But some watched 12 hours or more.
The ages are significant because brain development continues through those years, the study said.
“This study suggests that there is a significant and important association between early exposure to television and subsequent attentional problems,” said Dimitri Christakis, a physician at Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle who headed the study...A television programme is a pattern of flickering light (and sound) that conveys certain ideas. So, as we have already seen, how a person responds to it is dependent on their interpretation of it. If a television programme conveys bad ideas then a parent ought to explain why those ideas are bad. Any other stance presupposes that toddlers do not think, which is contradicted by the many things that toddlers learn in their first few years of life.
“There is a tremendous and growing reliance on television for a variety of reasons. However parents should be advised to limit their young child's television viewing,” Christakis said.
However, let's go a little deeper. When we look at the diagnositic criteria for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), something very disturbing emerges. This set of criteria purports to be an objective, medical diagnosis but the description could not be much further from an objective diagnosis. Take these quotes: “often leaves seat...[when]...remaining seated is expected” and “often talks excessively”. By whom is the seating expected and for what purpose? Since such expectations are subjective what are they doing in a medical diagnosis? Whose standards are being used to judge whether speaking is deemed excessive? Again, is this not a subjective determination that has no place in a medical diagnosis? We could go through the entire diagnosis, but we trust our point has been made. ADHD is not a medical diagnosis, it is a moral judgement dressed up as a medical diagnosis. What is more, it is a moral judgement that favours a bad set of moral standards. An authoritarian creed according to which children should not be given a choice over whether they sit or stand or have a conversation. Children who want to walk around when they wish and have conversations when they wish are entirely sensible, those who wish to stop them are not.
This is reminiscent of the medieval idea of demonic possession. Back then, when somebody did something the authorities disapproved of, they might say that he was possessed by demons and punish him, supposedly for the good of his immortal soul. In this sophisticated day and age, the authorities deem television and other such new fangled gadgets which convey dangerous ideas like freedom and critical discussion, to be the new demons causing innocent children to stray from the flock. However, there is no demon in the pattern of flickering light on a television screen waiting to sink its claws of light into a child's skull. The light only contains ideas that the authorities dislike and they ought to stop pretending otherwise.