It’s a hot, muggy day in the Not-So-Deep South, unusual for the winter time. They’re packed in to the rafters at the First Community Gospel Church of Interdenominational Mumbo-Jumbo. After a few opening hymns, a hush goes over the congregation, as mothers sternly “shush” their squirming children, while waving fans rapidly to keep the sweat off their faces.
The lights go down, and a lone spotlight bathes the pulpit, where our hero, the Preacherman, is hunched over in deep reverie. Finally, a single low note comes from the organ, sustaining itself, and the Preacherman opens his mouth to speak in a lilting Southern staccato.
Last night, I had a revelation. I was sitting in my overstuffed couch, counting down the minutes until “Trading Spouses” would come on my television set. I waited and waited and waited AND WAITED, brothers and sisters! I could have read the Ten Commandments in 48 languages by the time that show was going to come on! I sat and I sat, and waited some more, I did the crossword puzzle, the Jumble, and I even read Dear Abby, bless her soul.
He starts to pace the stage, wiping his brow at intervals.
Brothers and sisters, I was so bored, so filled with humdrum, I actually walked down the hall to visit my son, little Tommy, 13 years old, to have a heart-to-heart talk with him. He tried to turn off his computer monitor before I could see it, BUT NO! And what was he watching so secretively, in such an embarrassed state? Was it the dreaded PORNOGRAPHY? NO! Tommy was watching tonight’s episode of “Trading Spouses” on his computer monitor!
Had he made a deal with the devil, Rupert Murdoch, to see a Fox TV show before it was aired!? Had he plucked that show from the airwaves, like some kind of freak magician? NO! After much discussion and the threat of a whuppin’, Tommy quickly confessed what had happened this night. My boy, my son, MY OWN FLESH AND BLOOD, told me he had found a “LIBERATED” video file of the show on the Internet. Can I get a HALLELUJAH?!
Crowd roars, “Hallelujah!”
Tommy, my boy, told me he had read a TV insider BLOG on the subject of “Trading Spouses,” and then met another boy named Trident666 in the blog’s CHAT ROOM, who pointed him to a FILE–SHARING site where he could download TV shows, some of which had been SECRETLY UPLOADED by people working at the Fox studio. After he told me this, I THREATENED ANOTHER WHIPPING for the boy, the evil-sounding names of BLOG and TRIDENT666 sounding like the work of the DEVIL HIMSELF!
A true believer in the congregation shouts, “Go get ‘em Preacherman!”
But NOT SO FAST! Tommy explained to me that a blog is not the spawn of the devil, but just an online diary written by people like you and me, people who are fanatic about something, care about something, in this case the “Trading Spouses” television program. And Trident666 was a God-fearing boy from the swamps of Louisiana, a choir boy, in fact, who had only recently cast out the violent videogame Halo 2 at the suggestion of his own preacher.
True believer: “Praise him!”
Now here was my boy Tommy, downloading a TV show on his computer, was he committing a CRIME? Was what he was doing WRONG? I’ll leave the legality of this to the Supreme Court and the MPAA and RIAA and the FCC, but all he wanted that night was to watch HIS SHOW! He did not want to do the crosswords first, he did not want to do the Jumble, and PRAISE BE, he would not, COULD NOT read Dear Abby!
I sat down with Tommy next to his computer monitor, and we watched that show, we slapped our knees with delight and wonder. And we had a heart-to-heart talk till almost DAWN. While I had been sitting around waiting for my TV shows to come on, Tommy had been gaining POWER each day. He was meeting friends on MYSPACE–DOT–COM, reading blog after blog AFTER BLOG about his favorite gangster rap music, PRAISE THE NWA, and listening to the music and radio shows HE LIKED on his own time when he WANTED on his little iPOD DEVICE!
True believer: “Praise Steve Jobs!”
Now, I can’t COUNT the number of commercial messages I heard on the radio on my way to church this morning. All I wanted was the weather report, so why did I have to hear pitch after PITCH for everything from mutual funds to erectile dysfunction medication, CAN I GET A WITNESS?! Tommy would have been looking over my shoulder like a little angel, laughing with delight. ‘Why daddy,’ he’d snicker. ‘You could have downloaded the Weather Channel PODCAST and all your favorite radio shows before you left home, and listened when you wanted to listen to them.”
Is this boy speaking in tongues?? BLOGS and PODCASTS and CHAT ROOMS and UPLOADS and XML and RSS!!
Stops and mops his brow, and takes a thoughtful moment to himself.
Friends, let’s not get lost in the TECHNOlogical gobbledegook. It is important, yes! but it is just a tool. My boy showed me the way to MULTIMEDIA ENLIGHTENMENT! I was no longer chained to the TV schedules of the MEDIA COMPANY BIGWIGS, no longer a slave to the radio dial, no longer dependent on the whims of the NEWSPAPER DELIVERY GIRL and her errant throwing hand!
True believer: “No, sir!”
And how could I do THIS? How could I liberate myself? I could watch the TV news on that Internet WHENEVER I WANTED! I could subscribe to the podcasts I wanted, the GODCASTS, praise Him, to hear WHEN I wanted! I could get the movies I wanted delivered to my door from NETFLIX, or download them to my computer!
But there’s more, ladies and gentlemen, much, MUCH MORE! The best part of this new media REVOLUTION is that if I didn’t like what I was watching, didn’t like what I was hearing, didn’t like what I was reading, I COULD DO IT MYSELF!!
Organ lady plays a few trimphant notes.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I ask you to RISE UP, I ask you to take this oath, this PLEDGE with me, to swear on a stack of Bibles that you will NOT sit on your overstuffed couch waiting and WAITING for your TV shows to appear!
They rise as one.
Repeat after me. We the MEDIA–LOVING, MEDIA–DRENCHED people of these United States, in order to form a more perfect UNION complete with viewer participation, establish a JUST media distribution system, insure domestic tranquility and the GOD–GIVEN RIGHT TO ZAP COMMERCIALS, provide for our common defense against MEDIA BIGWIGS who seek to control our lives, promote the general welfare and QUALITY PROGRAMMING in which we have a VOICE, secure the blessings of liberty and FREEDOM to blog to our hearts’ content, do ordain and establish that we will WATCH, LISTEN, READ and WRITE what we want when we want it, on OUR OWN TERMS!
A cheer goes up, the organ plays, and the Preacherman bows his head in prayer.
[Thanks to Eric Sutton for the photo illustration, titled “Televangelical.” Check out his photo gallery at Shutterbook]