Philosopher and cultural theorist Michel Foucault warned of a 1984 style society which is under constant surveillance. In the late 18th century Philosopher Jeremy Bentham designed the panopticon. This building is a type of prison wherein all the cells are visible from the center thereby engendering the feeling that someone is watching you, even if you know the contrary. In the panopticon, the inmates never know when they are being watched so they are forced to follow the rules all the time or risk even more punishment.
According to Laura Pinto and Selena Nemorin, the Elf on the Shelf model raises the question that this cute little elf may be “preparing a generation of children to accept, not question, increasingly intrusive (albeit whimsically packaged) modes of surveillance.” A panopticon society of sorts in which the citizens like Orwell’s 1984 State are under constant watch by “Big Brother.”
In the paper written for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the authors claim that, “The Elf on the Shelf serves functions that are aligned to the official functions of the panopticon,……In doing so, it contributes to the shaping of children as governable subjects.”
A Little Further Down the Rabbit Hole
Be that as it may, now that this can of worms has been opened I think we can go a little further down the rabbit hole- children’s shows. Now, I know that this may be considered an assault on some parental “sacred cows” but pause for a moment and ponder if you will.
We all love Sesame Street don’t we? I mean two generations of children now have delighted to Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, Elmo and company right? After all, they not only teach our children useful skills like learning the alphabet, numbers, colors, basic concepts etc. but they are also so lovable too. I don’t mean to pick on Sesame Street or Peppa the Pig or any of the other children’s shows because my children grew up on them as well, but there may another side to this issue that we may have not considered.
That is, could this means of education also be doing something else to our children’s minds as well? Yes, the children learn things. Useful things of course like the alphabet and numbers, colors etc., but what else comes along with the learning?
Aren’t they also being conditioned to accept TV and in the larger picture, the media as valuable sources of education? Aren’t they being conditioned to accept what they are being offered by the media as valid and valuable?
Ok, it is worthwhile content, but as we know not All of what the media offers is worthwhile or truthful for that matter. We also know that TV induces a trance like state and is an excellent medium for conditioning one’s mind. (If you have ever try to get your children’s attention away from a program they are engaged in, you’ll know what I mean.) However, the belief that TV and the media is educational, valid and thereby truthful is being implanted in the facile mind of the child as they watch their favorite TV characters convey their educational (and conceptual) information.
A Little Further on Down the Road
Generations later politicians are paraded before us on the “tube”. When appear on the tube or in public, they are treated like rock stars. The audience bursts into applause and fawningly……..places their trust and control over their lives in them. (See Psalm 146:3-4 for another view of our modern day Princes.)
Meanwhile, these guys and gals are legislating away our freedoms and creating a modern day panopticon as we see in more full blossom in Britain these days.
So then, why are we applauding them? Why are we practically bowing in deference to them? They are, after all, public servants right? Aren’t they elected to serve us and not vice versa? Yet, we treat them like modern day Princes or, in the case of the President, perhaps a King or Dictator? Criticize the President and for the true believer, it is off with your head! How dare you!
Is There a Connection?
I suggest that there is a connection between the educational TV of our childhoods and the celebrity status of our politicians. The media after all encourages us to view them as our saviors. (Not Jesus of course. Who, after all, elected him?) We fawn over them on talk TV appearances as though they were our best friends only out to supply the answers and goods to meet our most important needs.
But really, let’s be honest here, are they?
They have run up our national debt to unprecedented levels. The latest debacle is the move to have the debt ceiling lifted to watch debt rise $339 Billion in one day! Is this really in our best interests?
Wars these days are constant companions and the military are applauded like the politicians. The unending war on terrorism drags on. (Just like Orwell’s 1984 Socialist Big Brother society where the wars never ended in fact.) This, of course, serves as an unending source of new debt which feeds the Federal Reserve cartel. They, in turn, provide the funds to put our modern day Princes in office. One hand washes the other as the saying goes.
Yet, we ignore the realities surrounding us and like the proverbial frog in the pot are passively allowing the water to come to a boil, applauding our slave masters all the way.
An Inordinate Trust of the Media?
I suggest that it links back to good old Big Bird, Bert and Ernie and friends. If you watch Presidential elections with a sense of objectivity (That is, not subscribing to media generated labels like conservative/liberal, right wing/left wing or even Republican and Democrat.) you find yourself a bit amazed that the public can so readily lap up the images that the media carefully crafts about the candidates.
The media essentially label the so-called “front runners”. We accept their labels without protest.
They craft the image of a closet Marxist like Obama as “The Change We Need”. The public laps it up hook, line and sinker. Anyone daring to criticize or question his moves may be slapped with the “racist” label, a silly posture that some fools still accept as valid.
Maybe in place of accepting authority and particularly the media, we should first recognize it as the monopoly that it is. Note how it is run by massive Corporations. Educate ourselves and discern how it absolutely fails to convey the real truth?
I think Big Bird has engendered us all with a too generous sense of trust of the media and authority. One that is steadily locking us into a police state panopticon in which it will be acceptable to have Big Brother watching our every move.
Just a Suggestion
If you have children, take responsibility for their basic education. (In fact, with the indoctrination system of public education you may want to take that a step further than the basics. Home schooling perchance? A tough way to fly in today’s economy but your children’s minds may be worth the sacrifice.)
Get a few children’s books and teach them how to recognize the alphabet, colors, numbers etc. themselves. Don’t just plop them in front of the TV and allow them to be subject to the trance state acceptance of the media as your replacement and their bestus friend.
Control the input of what goes into their minds. Maybe they won’t know who Peppa the pig is or Big Bird or the Count. But hey, as the popular commercial once put it, the mind a terrible thing to waste.