Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Is television the new opium of the masses?

Karl Marx once made that famous observation:

"Religion is the opium of the masses."

But sadly for old Pope Benedict and his cardinals, we live in an increasingly secular world. Only Islam seems to still be signing up new subscribers.

So if Karl was alive today, would he be substituting the word "religion" for the word "television" in his now famous quote?

Being a man who likes to be accurate and never to mislead anyone, I consulted that grand site we all love, Wikipedia

"Religion is the opium of the people" is one of the most frequently paraphrased statements of Karl Marx. It was translated from the German original, "Die Religion ... ist das Opium des Volkes" and is often referred to as "religion is the opiate of themasses." 

Anyway, I suppose it must be even worse in America, the land of a gazillion TV channels, but here in Aotearoa/New Zealand we are getting more TV channels, but less quality programming. It seems like bread and circuses stuff here with people being bounced off giant plastic balls or endless reality programmes which seem to concentrate on the basest of human nature or so-called "dramas" with acronyms that focus on serial killers and serial rapists. And so it goes on.

This crap might keep the masses from rising up against their masters, but for many of us it is a blessing because it gives us more time to read good books.

Next time an autocratic dictator like Mubarak needs to keep his people out of Tahrir Square just put CSI Miami on state-controlled television.


  1. Isn't facebook the opium for the masses? It certainly provides the same core appeal Religion used to with a kind of social networking.

  2. Yes, social media like Facebook do seem to be taking over from television, but I still think rubbish television (or for that matter, good television) plays to an audience that is more widespread in age and social status.

    But you have a good point. Some people post all the boring and inane minutiae of their lives and you have to wonder if they wouldn't be better off spending their time in a more creative fashion.