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Turned On By Big Brother

There was a brief article this week in my miserable local newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune, about a new "technology that would allow the government to remotely activate your television or radio."

At least, I assume the technology is new. The U-T's reporting is usually about as timely as the humor in a Bazooka Joe comic. For all I know, The Man has been stealthily turning on my TV at three in the morning for the last month. Which would go a long way toward explaining my disturbing, recurring dream featuring Jenilee Harrison and a can of Spray-on Hair.

The brilliant idea behind this great scientific advance is to allow emergency managers, in times of crisis, to turn on your TV and broadcast emergency warnings. According to one such manager, "All of the television announcements do you no good if you're home asleep."

To a certain extent, I can see his point. After all, if Earth's orbit takes us into the tail of a mysterious comet, causing the dead to rise from their graves and feast on the flesh of the living, I want to know good and early. That way I can be the first to get to the closest indoor shopping mall and barricade myself in, living off of Orange Julius and stale Sbarro pizza crust until the end of my days, or at least until a roving anarchist bicycle gang comes by to break up the party.

On the other hand, suppose that, in the wee hours of morning, astronomers discover that a meteor will decimate the planet before daybreak. Our only hope lies with a rag-tag band of jaded former astronauts and rogues, who may be able to divert the meteor's course, or blow it up, or something. Whether they succeed or fail, I contend that I'd just as soon sleep in.

In fact, I would argue that any emergency condition that isn't violent enough to wake me up outright is a punk-ass emergency and deserves to be slept through.

More importantly, though, can we trust any government entity with this kind of power over our entertainment appliances? The potential for Big Brother-style abuse just seems too great.

Consider a few of the horrifying possibilities that this brave new technology opens up:

  • The channel suddenly changes to the State of the Union address, mere seconds before the denouement of a particularly compelling Fresh Prince rerun.
  • After the TV is tuned to the Cartoon Network for over three hours, the television automatically begins broadcasting public service announcements about the dangers of marijuana use.
  • A new era of draconian criminal justice is ushered in when judges are given the power to sentence offenders to house arrest with the television always on and tuned to Mama's Family.
  • A visit from your in-laws takes a sudden, horrifying turn when the TV switches on spontaneously during dinner to reveal hot anal action on the Spice Channel.

You see what I mean? It just doesn't seem like a good idea. As far as I'm concerned, keep the government out of my uterus and my Sony Trinitron.

Besides, ain't nobody dicks around with my Fresh Prince reruns.


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