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Television Media

The Last Place 489

angela morgenstern writes "Buddhist Bhutan was the last place on earth to legalize television. Trading traditional practices for daytime soaps and WWF, many fear that western influence will trample the culture." A whole set of articles about the effect of American television on one of the most remote places on earth - it's official, there is no escape from American "culture".
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The Last Place

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  • No escape? (Score:5, Funny)

    by warmcat ( 3545 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @04:19AM (#4031268)
    Sure there is, turn off your TV, prise your kids out of the kid-shaped depression in the sofa and do other things that don't require you to be passive and watch ads to give you a value system.
    • by jafuser ( 112236 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @06:17AM (#4031587)
      Lately, I like to consider watching television and/or movies, the same as most people think of the consumption of alcoholic beverages. It's fine to do it socially, while in the company of friends or family, but taking in too much (especially while you're only by yourself), is not good for you.
  • WWF (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    What does the world wildlife fund have to do with any of this?
  • by Erik_ ( 183203 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @04:25AM (#4031287)
    In the report it says : "Rinzy has hooked up this secluded society to 45 cable television channels, featuring everything from the BBC to Baywatch, all for about $5 a month: the price of a bag of red chillies."
    Is that the cost of a bag of red chillies in the United States ? How much buying power is $5 in Bhutan ? So these people get to watch adverts for cars/food/luxuries that they will not be able to purchase.
    • ...with the risk of being unbearably dull...

      The GNP per capita [ecoworld.com] 1995 for US seems to be $26 062, ranking at 12th postition. Bhutan, again, is 145th with a GNP per capita of $172. So, I suspect five bucks is a huge portion of a normal monthly salary.
    • So these people get to watch adverts for cars/food/luxuries that they will not be able to purchase.

      Sounds like TV in Alaska.
    • So these people get to watch adverts for cars/food/luxuries that they will not be able to purchase.

      Exactly. And plenty of folks there are going to want to purchase those things. And they're going to realize that they need to quit hanging out in the monestary so often, or meditating, or whatever other unproductive things they do and GET A JOB.

      And in a few years they're gonna be waking up early every morning and going to a job they hate and busting their butt every friggin' day, just like you & me, to get all that stuff.

      Welcome to the west.
    • You're making two assumptions here. First, that local stations will purchase American some programming. That may well happen but is far from a certainty. Secondly, and most importantly, that they will show American ads. That makes exactly zero sense. They would show ads targeted towards the local population. No other country I know of, even with some American TV and movies, has ads for exclusively American products. Do you really think that they will broadcast directly from American channels??
    • Is that the cost of a bag of red chillies in the United States ? How much buying power is $5 in Bhutan ?

      Who cares? You're missing the big picture! Why the hell can they wire remote areas for cable at $5/month but I can't get it right in the middle of my pre-wired metro area without paying an order of magnitude more? I mean, damn, just the listing of what's on costs twice as much from the TiVo people!

    • I was just thinking... why does it have to be American TV they're watching?

      Why can't they make their own programming. TV doesn't have to be evil.. it's what you watch.
  • by Zemran ( 3101 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @04:26AM (#4031288) Homepage Journal
    I have only just got back from SEasia and could not find much to watch on their TV as they have their own programming that I found terrible. They have a good strong culture of their own and I think it will prevail. I had to resort to MTVasia and the BBC world. Even MTVasia is their own bubble pop rather than the stuff we are used to. As the tube moves into Bhutan I think it will be asian TV that goes with it and they will not get this expected burst of western "culture" when it arrives.

    American "culture" ? is that an oxymoron ?
  • by tjensor ( 571163 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @04:28AM (#4031292) Journal
    it's official, there is no escape from American "culture".
    Sure there is. Here are a set of simple instructions.
    1) Locate point of entry for electricity in to your house.
    2) Disconnect Electricity (some car is advised at this point). 3) Locate all telephones in house.
    4) Smash telephones with Hammer, or other large heavy object (possibly your now useless VCR).
    5) Locate large wads of cotton wool.
    6) Insert cotton wool in to ears (in case of passing boombox).
    7) Never leave house.

    Never mind Pax Americana, fear Pax AOL / Time Warner.
  • Waitasec. (Score:3, Funny)

    by vavenger ( 177469 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @04:32AM (#4031302)
    Bhutan's top 10 cable channels. [pbs.org]

    They mean to tell me that they get HBO in friggin' Bhutan? I can't even get it in Canada!
  • by jamieo ( 22197 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @04:32AM (#4031303) Homepage
    Actually this is a bit more accurate than you may think. Recently I spent a month trekking in Nepal - a nearby country to Bhutan and one that has only recently (30 years) opened itself to foregin influences.

    The popularity of WWF, even high in the remote mountain villages, was not something I expected. Then again, this is usually the only "culture" the US exports.

    I also visited the country about 10 years earlier after a few months backpacking through India. For around 3 months I travelled and didn't once see a bottle/can of Coca Cola (or derivative) - it was all local soft drinks that were available. At the time it was a refreshing change, and gave you a much more local flavour.

    On my more recent trip you could *only* get Coca Cola soft drinks (Coke, Sprite, Fanta, etc.), even high in the mountains a week's travel from the nearest road. OK, they were locally manufactured (under license) and tasted different (the Fanta was nice!), but it was something that got in the way of emersing yourself in a completely different culture. As for the locals themselves, there seemed to be no benefit whatsoever for them having "Coke" soft drinks compared to the local ones before them.

    Ho hum, roll on the Disneyfication of the planet.
    • by Zemran ( 3101 )
      I agree that there are stacks of Coke/Fanta bottles but you can always ask for something different if you want the "local" flavour. I preferred to ask for a Watermellon shake. They use the inside of a watermelon, liquidised with ice. It is really simple and a great drink costing 10cents (up to 70 cents if you are in a hotel).

      I think a more interesting report will be "how the marketting men got on" in 5 years time. Can they really understand a culture so different ? Bhutan is classified as one of the poorest countries but there is very little real poverty. It is hard for us to relate to a country that does not need money, so we call them poor. We think of poverty as not having a TV, extreme poverty as not having food. So how do you classify poverty in a country where food is there on the trees all year round? Where people happily feed a stranger just because he is passing at meal time? Where people will work for no wages because those around them will look after them? I do agree that their culture will lose from TV but I think we have far more to learn from them. The children in Bhutan already wear t-shirts and trainers so this is not a big step but it is a step further away from the beauty of what they had.
    • > As for the locals themselves, there seemed to be no benefit whatsoever for them having "Coke" soft drinks compared to the local ones before them.

      Uhm, you're expecting some sort of change when people switch from one brand of suger water to another? And then you're blaming Coca Cola and American culture when there isn't one? You could at least try/i to hide your inherent cultural bias.

      Culture is bunk.
    • For that matter, there was a time when there weren't old beer cans and cigarette butts strewn by the side of the road- in Sweden.

      A bit of Westernization later, and there were- and I've never heard of any country going back and regaining its original character once it goes down this path. Something about Western Culture (tm) seems to teach people, 'consume, charge ahead towards whatever goal you claim to have, stomp anything that's in the way and chuck your trash out the window because you can't be bothered to waste time taking care of somebody ELSE'S roadside'.

      On the subject of soft drinks, anyone noticed how "Red Bull" is made in Austria? Anyone noticed how American companies are now fighting for shelf space with their own imitations, anyone get the feeling that Coke and Pepsi are just not OK with you being able to buy soft drinks from some not-Coke company in Austria? Disneyfication is an awfully cheery word for global control. It will be interesting to see whether 'Copsi' choose to kill 'Red Bull' with price cutting and subsidizing their alternatives with the sales of their regular soft drinks, or whether they choose to kill it by demanding stores not carry it and threatening to pull the regular soft drinks off the shelves. The advantage of the latter is that once Red Bull is killed they get to still sell their 25 cent ripoff sugar water at 2$ a tiny can...

      Ho fucking hum, business as usual...

  • this is [bbs.com.bt] hot stuff!:

    19:00-19:15 Tonight & The News in Dzongkha
    19:15-19:20 Advertisement and announcement
    19:20-19:50 Dzongkha Gongphel
    19:50-20:00 UK TODAY Sutton Hoo- The London Marathon
    20:00-20:10 News in English
    20:10-20:15 Advertisement and announcement
    20:15-20:30 Telematch
    20:30-21:00 Telematch

    I am ready to Dzongkha! Whatever it is ;)
  • It never occured to me that there might be a place that there *ISN'T* TV.
  • American Culture (Score:5, Interesting)

    by YeeHaW_Jelte ( 451855 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @04:52AM (#4031359) Homepage
    I guess there should be a distinction made between american culture and american "culture" as used by michael. Yes, you americans have a great culture; excellent writers, great artists and original musicians. Too bad that the stuff that actually gets exported the most is "culture": coke, disney and the worst of hollywood.
    I've been reading some of the comments and all I have to say is this: don't short change yourself or your culture, be aware of the things that have real value and give these to the world.
    • by Arsewiper ( 535175 )
      No, what's sad is that the 'culture' is what the rest of the world subscribes to. It's market led so for people outside of the US to complain they are really complaining about the tastes of their own culture. I'm glad that the US has provided us with some excellent tv like the Simpsons and early X-Files. If I have any objection it's to the marketing of unhealthy food like McDonalds to children - that's harmful and underhand.
    • Your whole post is great, but these last few words really nail it. The fact is, common Americans have squat to do with "giving our culture to the world." First off, we don't export, big Katzian corporations do. Second off, we don't travel abroad, at least we can't afford to very often, and can't do much personal export.

      So maybe I'd be willing to give some of my culture to the world, but there's not much way or opportunity. Instead we have Disney and AOL/Time Warner selling American "culture", as you say. The key distinction is between "give" and "sell".
    • by asreal ( 177335 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @07:19AM (#4031708)
      This reminds me of a question that came up while I was studying in the UK. My Pop Culture in Britain 1800-Present class was discussing what the term culture means. Many people were certain culture meant what was played on BBC4 and "the classics." I took another point of view. Culture is everything produced by a civilization... there is no real yardstick.

      After all, in his day, Shakespeare's plays were considered to be for the common people. I don't mean to equate The Fast and the Furious with Hamlet, but I think we are too fast to dismiss anything other than 'high culture'.

    • by pamri ( 251945 )
      American culture suceeds not becuase it is one of the greatest, but it's Corporations with their deep pockets have marketed it successfully. And what you are saying is very true.

      The culture that get's exported out of america is not the best, but that which thrives on popular emotions & has a transnational appeal(coke, wwf, spiderman).
      The reason WWF succeeds, say, compared to Mark Twain maybe because WWF cuts across many barriers like language, the emotions conveyed are easily decipherable & more easily understood by a villager in bhutan than say, the meaning of songs by any US folk artist(Not that other cultural aspects like the writings of Mark Twain or David Thoreau may be unrelated to people across the globe, but it's just that they don't appeal to everyone & it is not marketable, esp the Corporations).
      But, not all american culture does suceed, rather, the host country's culture or it's presentation get's a make-over(Glocalisation anyone?).eg:Switch on MTV in any country- Most of the pop song videos (their packaging) look similar, where as the folk-music that you would get, say on their PBS, would reflect the country's national ethos.

    • Too bad that the stuff that actually gets exported the most is "culture": coke, disney and the worst of hollywood.

      And Slashdot. Don't forget about Slashdot. :-)

      Sometimes it is really hard to be proud to be an American. We do have so many great things in this country, but we have so many things to be ashamed of. I guess it just comes with the territory. Everything seems to be a paradox. We have a great country, with so much to offer by way of music, food, wine, entertainment, fashion, culture. But we always seem to just push things a little too far. I mean, we landed on the moon for crying out loud. We send missions into space on a pretty regular basis, and it barely makes the news. But Britney Spears breaks up with her boyfriend, and I have to hear about it for weeks. There are many things that I am proud of about my country, but it is really hard sometimes to remember those things when we act so stupid. About the only thing we don't have here is a deep rooted tradition. Maybe that contributes to our culture and our "culture".

    • Too bad that the stuff that actually gets exported the most is "culture": coke, disney and the worst of hollywood.

      Actually, I would consider Coke to be a positive part of the American culture. What is negative about Coke? It's been around a looooong time, and people like it. One of the oldest American companies, and still successful.
  • This is a tiny country, and they don't need a slashdotting.
    http://www.google.com/search?q=+site%3Awww.bbs.com .bt+bhutan [google.com]

    That might be a good enough link to use for most pages in the bhutan broadcasting service.

  • by Kirby-meister ( 574952 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @04:57AM (#4031375)
    I think American culture is much better than some of the less-tolerant cultures there are in this world.

    Come on, what's so bad about our culture? Not all of us are the stereotyped fat slobs who stare at the TV all day. Our music is diverse, our people tend to work, and our culture is mostly tolerant on issues. And I like the fact that we are free to discuss issues concerning the government.

    • and our culture is mostly tolerant on issues.

      Yes, I've seen that on Ricky Lake and Jenny Jones. ;)

      "Oh no, you're not normal! We have to change/brainwash you so you can fit in with the rest!"

    • Our music is diverse

      Only if you know where to look. Remember, before the internet, the same crap you hear on all of the current Clear Channel radio stations was the majority1 of what would make it to other countries.

      our people tend to work

      True, but we seem to be prejudiced against rest and relaxation of any sort. What ever happened to enjoying life? What's the big deal if you die a "successful" millionaire if you Can't Take it With You"TM?

      My roommate from England tells me about how many Europeans get a month of vacation per year; they get even more (6 weeks?) if they've got some seniority. The average full-time American employee gets two weeks of vacation time per year, and those with seniority may even be lucky enough to get three! And even when we do finally get to take some down time, we still can't get some rest and relaxation [yahoo.com] without overworking ourselves.

      and our culture is mostly tolerant on issues

      More like Apathy. Passivity. Sheep-like behavior.

      There are many issues which are worth some time to consider:

      • Human rights
      • Civil rights
      • Racism
      • Affirmative Action
      • Funding education
      • Arms control
      • Campaign finance
      • Missile defense
      • Immigration
      • The corruption of mainstream media
      • Medicare/Medicaid
      • AIDS
      • Drug patents
      • Disabled rights
      • Juvenile justice
      • Conflicts in Africa
      • The cause of poverty
      • Third World Debt
      • Free trade and globalization
      • Creeping corporate power
      • Consumerism
      • International criminal court
      • The Middle East
      • The War on TerrorTM
      • Foreign Policy
      • Israel and Palestine
      • Kosovo
      • Chechnya
      • East Timor
      • China
      • Genetically modified food
      • Global Warming
      • Animal/Nature conservation
      • Human cloning
      • Prayer in school
      • Gun control
      • Patient rights
      • Euthanasia
      • Privacy
      • Terrorism
      • Tobacco
      • Health Care
      • United Nations
      • Veterans
      • Tort Reform
      • Separation of church and state
      • Bill of Rights
      (just to name a few)

      At least some of these issues should be things people talk about and think about every day, instead of going home to be brainwashed by MTV or the latest episode of Friends (aka "culture"). I know there *are* people in the USA who do stay on top of the issues, but for the most part, people prefer to stick their heads in the ground and be apathetic (aka "tolerant") of how everything is going now. Honestly, do you think our leaders are going to make the right decisions?

  • by Zarf ( 5735 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @04:59AM (#4031387) Journal
    Just like I've seen the culture of a small Alaskan village cease due to the introduction of T.V. So will the culture of Bhutan. This letter [pbs.org] to the editor is very convincing on that point.

    When I was young, we were Alaskans. We had our own culture and music both the old (native alaskans) and the new Russians and Americans had forged a unique identity that was Alaskan. Then TV came. By the time I left High School you could see the changes.

    My point is well illustrated by this story:
    I graduated high school in 1992, the kids from our class did the Christmas dance theme on some cute "Stairway to Heaven" or other schmaltzy thing. The kids that were class of 1994 did "Christmas in da 'Hood". The '94 kids had gang violence in their classrooms. Kids bringing guns to school (with the intent of shooting other kids and not to show off their new hunting rifle), weapons, and grafiti became problems.

    The ironic thing was that the younger classes were smaller ours was the largest graduating class.

    I remember all the Rappers and the oppressed gansta' types sulking about the remote and wild wilderness of one of the remotest places on earth. Some people run away to the untouched beauty of Alaska to escape inner-city grime. How ironic that an aspiring young rap-star would be cursed with living in a place where there was hardly any crime and the government paid you to live there.

    If religion is the opiate of the masses, then television is the crystal-meth of the glue huffing, crack-smoking, I-got-the-munchies masses.
    • Not that it's a bad thing ofcourse. A single world-culture and a single world language would be good for trade. I still own a TV and I watch it BTW and I think that a strong mind can use TV rather than be used by it.

      I just don't hold any illusions that you can preserve a local culture under the constant wash of TV. It just is as it is. TV's unblinking eye serves us well in many ways. As it connects it also provides a common experience to all who are watching, the common experience causes common culture. Just how GNU/Linux has a culture formed about it, and TV shows tend to spawn sub-cultures too (ie: Star Trek, Star Wars, et al.).

      So maybe I'm being a bit harsh with my last post. Still, it is sad to see the end of a culture. Just like it was sad to see the end of Amiga, OS2, or Novell.
  • by Flounder ( 42112 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @05:03AM (#4031401)
    After realizing that I never watched TV anyway, and the kids were watching too much, I disconnected the cable.

    Got internet for news, info, and entertainment. The kids now spend more time playing outside and reading. The only thing I really miss is sports (no big deal, as I hate all the local teams here in Maryland) and 24hr news (at least have the net).

    Still have the TV (gotta watch DVDs and the kids still have the kiddie movies). But it mostly stays off now. It's nice.

    Granted, instead of spending $40 a month on cable, I'm spending $100+ a month on DVDs.
  • Bhorgtan (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Zephy ( 539060 )
    "THIMPHU, Bhutan -- Microsoft's latest venture is a localized version of its dominant Windows operating system for the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. "

    Article Here [cnn.com]
    • Re:Bhorgtan (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @06:41AM (#4031635)
      "THIMPHU, Bhutan -- Microsoft's latest venture is a localized version of its dominant Windows operating system for the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. "

      Is there a Bhutan-localized version of Red Hat?

      That's a rhetorical question.

      Which brings me nicely to my point: it is literally impossible for a capitalist culture to force itself on another culture. Capitalists can advertise products and services for sale but cannot force anyone to buy; the only people that eat at McDonalds, drink Starbucks, watch Disney and so forth are people who want to and are willing to pay with their own money.

      If people don't want to buy, corporations will collapse and leave. The only people who complain aren't the ones freely spending their own money on what they enjoy. Rather, they are the self-proclaimed elite, those who don't offer anything that their people actually want, and can only survive where there is no competition. An example of this is the way the French taxpayer has to subsidise the production of French films, but with the money they are allowed to keep, they queue up to watch films from Hollywood.

      Imperialism is something different. Imperialism is when one country conquers another with military force, forming an empire, and imposes its culture on the conquered. Imperial means "to do with an empire". Examples of imperialism are, for example, the conquests of eastern European countries and the imposition of Communism by the Soviets.

      So I applaud the government and people of Bhutan - and the global corporations - for bringing freedom and choice to the most remote parts of the world.
      • "it is literally impossible for a capitalist culture to force itself on another culture."

        Ye gods. Nice oversimplification of psychology! Nice resolute ignoring of history and current freaking events, guy. You're playing logical games- go learn about 'game theory' and get it through your head that there is such a thing as non-optimal outcomes. You're insisting on a religious faith in stuff that is not backed up by reality, and every bit of it is to defend your little axiom, that cannot be questioned, that capitalists cannot possibly influence or direct a market other than to offer goods and services.

        Post-Enron that sounds freaking insane- and that's just one side of things. People have been studying the psychological manipulation of 'consumers' (the word alone is a bias) for DECADES, how is it that you know nothing of this?

        Damn randite. "no no, there is no such thing as force unless you point a gun at somebody!" You just keep on quote "applauding global corporations" unquote and let's hope enough people notice that and recognize you for what you are. You are not the apex of enlightenment, and your opinions are not the height of wisdom. They are brainwashed foolishness.

        • Nice resolute ignoring of history and current freaking events, guy. You're playing logical games- go learn about 'game theory' and get it through your head that there is such a thing as non-optimal outcomes. You're insisting on a religious faith in stuff that is not backed up by reality, and every bit of it is to defend your little axiom, that cannot be questioned, that capitalists cannot possibly influence or direct a market other than to offer goods and services.

          I stand by what I said. The US military can invade Iraq and install a puppet regime, but can you imagine them corralling Iraqis into line at the newly opened Baghdad McDonalds? Of course not. Now if you're saying a corporation can bribe a government into doing something, that's true. But if the government's open to bribery, then any corporation who doesn't play along is at risk from their rivals getting there first.But that's just the corporation making the best of the murky environment it finds itself in.

          Church and state were long ago separated; time for economy and state to be uncoupled also.

          Post-Enron that sounds freaking insane- and that's just one side of things. People have been studying the psychological manipulation of 'consumers' (the word alone is a bias) for DECADES, how is it that you know nothing of this?

          Yes, it's called advertising. The worst it can do to you is annoy you. It can't make you do anything you don't want to do - and that's a fact.

          And what has Enron got to do with anything? Enron is proof that the system works: they tried to break the law, they got caught, they got busted. That's the beauty of the capitalist system, if you set it up right, it's self-regulating.
  • As if that weren't bad enough, Bill Gates won't leave them alone either [cnn.com]
  • downsides:
    - WWE (formerly the WWF)
    - The Anna Nicole Smith Show
    - Jackass
    - Springer/Oprah/etc.
    - FOX News

    - Simpsons
    - Red Dwarf
    - Cartoon Network's Adult Swim
    - MST3K
  • Read Kuensel (Score:4, Informative)

    by rpjs ( 126615 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @05:47AM (#4031532)
    If you want a glimpse of Bhutan, read their national newspaper Kuensel [kuenselonline.com] on the web. It's in English and it gives a fascinating insight into a country that's still trying to take on the modern world on its own terms.

    And it uses Slash.
  • WWF (Score:2, Funny)

    It's good to see that the people of Bhutan keep up with there budist nature and look after pandas and the wildlife...

    didn't you mean WWE [wwe.com]
  • by -ryan ( 115102 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @05:48AM (#4031535)
    Unfortunately when American "culture" is exported to other countries the only thing that makes it is the more disgusting side of us. Baywatch, Britney Spears, and McDonalds can be found even in China of all places. Yet our fundamental values of freedom, responsibility, and individualism somehow don't sell as well.
    • [Trolling begins]
      Surely you jest!
      Freedom: The NSA, The DCMA, yup... pretty good freedoms there.
      Responsiblity: The Kyoto agreement, The UN war crime court, Pollution, Fossil fuels. Very responsible.
      Individualism: If I may quote MP: "Yes, we are all individuals!". Sorry, US populace is one of the most sheepish ever.
      [trolling ends]

    • > Yet our fundamental values of freedom, responsibility, and individualism somehow don't sell as well.

      Pardon my cynicism, but don't you think it's a bit of a stretch to call those our fundamental values? Sure, they get a lot of lip service, but they don't seem to see a lot of hard use.

      Freedom: How does the USA's incarceration rate stack up to the rest of the world's?

      Responsibility: Why isn't there a diving board at your municipal swimming pool?

      Individualism: Manifests itself primarily as insider stock deals ("Avoid the crowd!").

      That's not to say that there aren't a lot of good things about the USA, but unfortunately we're a bit slack about any core values other than greed and the lust for power.

  • by forkboy ( 8644 )
    As I was reading through these posts, wondering why American culture has spread so virally throughout the rest of the modern world, it struck me as to WHY foreign governments don't seem to be saying a while lot about it: Control.

    Think about it....has the American populace ever been so apathetic and easily manipulated as we have in the last 25 years? Our political and corporate leasership gets progressively worse and worse and yet the same people keep getting re-elected into office and appointed to positions of trust. This is a fucking wet dream not only for corrupt despots of all kinds in the rest of the world, but other so-called democracies and republics that don't want all the hassle that comes with actually appeasing people through honesty and care for citizens' well being.

    "Fuck it", they say, "let em watch TV so we can manipulate their views with mass media and satiate their desires by making them think they have to have all the useless crap that's advertised...they'll feel their needs are met when they make a few purchases."

    It's made most of us lazy, greedy, and apathetic...hardly anyone votes anymore and most of the ones that do cannot be bothered to think about who they're voting for, they just vote for whatever party they decided they liked in high school civics class. No one takes an interest in their community anymore. How many of you can say you know the names of all your neighbors? How many of you care? By this loss of sense of community and the artificial contentment that arises from being a "consumer", we don't take nearly as much of an active part in what's going on around us, community or government. Local or National.

    Don't let it fool you...American culture is about being controlled while at the same time feeling like you're the one in charge. You ARE in charge...of what channels you watch and what merchandise you buy. I have genuine respect for those who are willful enough to avoid watching television, or better yet, do not own one. When the revolution comes, you'll be the ones who aren't watching it on CNN.

    Happiness can't be found in catch phrases, soft drinks, feel-good tv shows, or pop music. I feel sorry for the people of Bhutan. It sounds like it used to be a nice place.

    • If you only knew how right you are... Everybody, think about this question for a while:

      In which society is propaganda most important, in a dictatorship or a democracy?

      For more on this subject, read Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky's [zmag.org] Manufacturing Consent, which explains how the seven media filters make sure nothing nasty (like, for instance, the truth) reaches the public. It's a quite heavy book to read, but very interesting.

      Also, for brilliant US political satire comics, something I discovered yesterday: This Modern World [thismodernworld.com], by Tom Tomorrow. (I don't think the penguin is related to Linux though.)

    • You claim that the manipulation of the population of the US has become much more profound in the last 25 years. I think you are being a bit short sighted. You speak of Mass Media manipulating people...but people have been manipulated for eternity. Does being told what to buy and believe become more acceptable when it's the rest of your town/neighborhood doing the telling, rather than a corporation? Your complaints about corrupt polititions being re-elected is also an on-going theme in human government.

      In short, nothing has changed except your perception. Do you truely think that Maw and Paw Kettle out in Bumfuck, ID knew about political scandles back in the 1800's? Of course not, all they knew about washington was reported in a newspaper. A newspaper that 'played nice' with the politicos. Things seem worse because you can see all the bad events, but trust me, this stuff has been going on forever. Do you really think the industrial magnates of the first half of the 20th century were 100% pure? Yeah right! When you own all the steel in the country, you do what you want.

      Don't throw out the TV...maybe turn off the cable. Just remember that it's all entertainment. Even the 'news', and especially CSPAN!

    • Yeah dude, old Julius Caesar figured this one out too, he called it "bread and games". So in other words, give your people jobs/consumer goods and entertainment and you can pretty much rule as you like.

      Interesting to note though, that it was the King of Bhutan who resisted this for so long. Sounds like a good leader to me (tries to do what's in the best interest of his people). So maybe all is not lost for Bhutan.

    • It's not entertainment opiates that make for an 'apathetic' populace, it's FOOD.

      We're not hungry, we're not angry, at least not for any appreciable amount of time. That why Saddam Hussein and African Dictators starve their own people, to encourage misery and dissent which can be used to blame and destroy the cultural 'enemy' of their choosing.

      If and when the Revolution comes, the New Boss will be much worse than the Old Boss, believe you me. Ideology thrives on mountainous piles of human meat and oceans of blood, because the End is always deemed as more important than the means.

      Kicking the TV habit and getting to know your neighbors are things we each do ourselves by choice. The minute you try to mandate such things you have created a State. Feed people, educate them in the basics and then let them live. If their idea of living is endless rounds of WWF, then so be it. You and I have come to find greater value in other things, but that does not mean that we are superior.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 08, 2002 @06:41AM (#4031636)
    I don't know, the Amish have been doing a pretty good job of preventing their culture from becoming "Americanized" as far as I can tell, and they live in America.
  • by Ezubaric ( 464724 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @06:46AM (#4031641) Homepage

    These fears aren't just about Bhutan. If anything, America faces as great a threat from the death of local culture as anywhere else. The only difference is that we delude ourselves into thinking that raking in money makes it all "okay."

    Sure, we feel more comfortable when we travel when we can order the same extra value meal in in every time zone, but I can only echo the sentiments of Lisa on the variety of Americana:

    Lisa: Wow, Dad and Bart have been everywhere! They've eaten submarine sandwiches, grinders, *and* hoagies.

    Damn. I guess I've been taken in by the tentacles too. I guess it's okay as long as I can super-size.
  • I've had it up to here (hand waving just over top of head) with people dissing American "culture", as it's always put.

    Let's face it, what passes for culture in, say, Northern Europe is the art produced to the taste of a small elite that maintained its position through violence and threats of violence.

    In much of the rest of the world, what passes for culture involves things like clitorectomy, honor killing of women, huge rates of infant mortality, etc.

    What's America got by comparison? Well, an empowered middle class that gets to do pretty much what it wants. Hence we have backyard barbeques, tailgate parties, Budweiser, The Simpsons, large bellies, and early cholesterol death.

    And guess what? We like it like that!

    Now, don't get me wrong, there is room in the fringes for the next Mozart. In fact, bring it on! If we like it, we'll make you a multi-millionaire.

    You see, that's the beauty of American culture: it's a total democracy of taste, and the mob gets to vote with its pocket book.

    Now, I know that the elites in other parts of the world just totally gnash their teeth at this. That's what elites do when confronted with deomcracy.

    Well, get used to it.
  • it's official, there is no escape from American "culture".

    Or Great Britian "culture" or Austrailian "culture" or whatever "culture"

    television is an entertainment device and if people are entertained by "culture" then let them.

    God forbid they discover that the world isnt flat and there are other people in it.. let alone the fact that the people you were bred to hate all your life are not really as bad as your government told you they were... (Go watch some Chinese or Russian Television programmes or movies.)
  • Another curious story [cnn.com] about Bhutan.
  • Folks,

    I think the fall of cultural provincialism via the spread of television is not exactly a new phenomenon.

    Think about it: when the Roman Empire spread throughout the Mediterrean, the culture of that empire heavily stomped out most local cultures and/or adapted local cultures to Roman needs. It was this singular culture that allowed Christianity to spread throughout the Empire by the 3rd Century AD.

    When Johann Gutenberg invented the moveable type printing press around 1453, it made it much easier to spread learning around Europe. The ability to print thousands of identical copies of books formed the basis of national culture throughout Europe.

    And from the 1920's on, the rapid deployment of radio did a lot to reduce provincial spoken dialects, especially with national radio networks pretty much forcing people to speak in very few or only one standard dialect(s).

    Television is just only a recent medium that is stomping out cultural provincialism through the world; the Internet is doing the same right now.
  • As someone who has actually left the country(USA) and travaled to diffrent parts of the world (mainly asia and the middle east)let me tell you something; US, Canada, England, Australia, and many of the european countries have a good deal of freedoms pretty much in line with the bill of rights none of these countries way out thier in there laws(minus few tech laws but these will get ironed out in time and reps get more tech savvy). When I was in thailand I found it is legal to have sex with very young girls and prostitution is a mojor industry there. Some may say they have the freedom to prostitute themselves others would say its morally objectionable. these are the things that go on in other countries generally I like thai peopel they are friendly and don't look down on you because your american. when I was in japan and hong kong they would not let americans in to certain bars and nightclubs this obviously racism but no one cares. when in the middle east our female marines and sailors could not go out at night becuase they are females. If i was to rank America on personal freedoms she would easily be in the top ten. The U.S. set the standard for personal freedoms for citizens but now I think the Us has been lagging a little bit putting corporate interests ahead of the peoples. Currently this is just a minor nuisance but could get bad if left unchecked. Eventually the world be completely connected ( all hail the internet) . And the best ideas will surface and eventually be accepted. Right now Everything has an American slant to it because Americans and American Corporations get these products and ideas to market to the widest spectrum of people eventually this will change. and we will all be better for it. but whatever ihave to get back to work.
  • I'm sure that following shortly on the heels of WWE and Coca-cola will be the highly judgemental and anti-populist attitudes about such things. Your reaction to these things is also a part of the culture. Meanwhile, we should be kinda happy about the export of these other cultural notes:

    - trial by jury
    - women's rights
    - end of torture
    - highly productive economy
    - separation of church and state
    - education of the masses
    - modern medicine
    - multicultural tolerance ...and much, much more.
  • What do I think of American culture?

    I think it would be a good idea.

    Yes, I know it's probably redundant, but if this joke has been posted here then the original is already at -1 and I didn't get a chance to enjoy it again. No culture, no sense of humour, no cuisine... no wonder you people wig out over Monty Python and pizza.

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.