I took a course in college called “Mass Media and Communications”. I can’t remember the reason. But what I will never forget is one of the lessons. This was back in the early 2000s, so HDTV (1080p etc) wasn’t prevalent yet. The professor taught us how a television worked. I had no idea before then. He explained that a device inside the box quickly draws a very thin line–two hundred forty evenly spaced lines actually–across the screen. Then on its return trip, this device fills in the blanks just left with another set of lines. That’s where 480i (NTSC) comes from. Old televisions in America had 480 “interlaced” lines. Now we all watch in some level of progressively scanning lines, meaning the picture is fully refreshed each trip across the screen and the image is high definition. Now you know.
What all this techno-mumbo-jumbo means to us mortals is that the images on the television screen are an illusion. They’re not really there. Different than a painting, sculpture, or the words and images in a tangible book/magazine/newspaper, which we can really see and feel and touch, the images on the television screen are an optical illusion. Our brain is able to put together all these rapidly moving lines and we think we see a man or woman or if you’re four and a half years old, it seems that all you see is an Octonaut.
But the truth is there is nothing there. There is only an illusion. Mr. Williams is not in our living room. Only a powerful illusion that our brain wants to believe is a trustworthy man named Brian Williams is there. But even that is not true. This illusion isn’t on or in the television, the illusion is in our minds.
The question then becomes, “Can an illusion lie?” I say no. I say there is no non-fiction television to begin with. How could there be?
If there is anything to be learned from current events, it is that we’ve allowed ourselves, yet again, to be fooled. The new question, the only question I see remaining at the end of this is, “How many more times will we let it happen before we turn off the TV?”