Society for the Eradication of Television

I do not watch television and
encourage others to do the same.


The Society for the Eradication of Television was started by Mary Dixon and some friends in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1980. Following several all-night discussions about media, especially television, and the bad effect that it usually seems to have, they printed a simple membership card that read: I do not have a working television in my home and I encourage others to do likewise. The befuddled and sometimes hostile response from the people they gave these to (who seemed to be just regular folks otherwise) reinforced their worst fears about what television was doing to people.

One thing led to another, and soon S.E.T. was holding meetings and publishing a newsletter. Anarchistic from the get, S.E.T. members started to spread the word in many other ways as well. Ester Erford sent a response to Dear Abby when Abby gave a tepid response to a woman who had written that her husband had stopped even acknowledging her presence once they bought a television. Esther asked Abby why she hadn't suggested booting the boob tube -- a perfectly reasonable question, it would seem. Abby printed Esther's letter, and then a blistering response, in part calling S.E.T. unamerican. Ellen Trabilcy and I coordinated a Radio Bridge dialogue about television between Americans and people in the Soviet Union on Radio Moscow. Radio Moscow and the Voice of America were at that time heard by more people worldwide than any other stations anywhere. Pat Brown did interviews on both the Voice of America and Radio Australia. In short, S.E.T. members were innovative in getting the message out in both big and little ways. After the Dear Abby column, followed by a second Dear Abby column given over totally to rabid attacks on S.E.T., and then the radio interviews, S.E.T. was suddenly flooded with requests for information from all corners of the world.

Now, many years later, the Society for the Eradication of Television is even more timely than it was when it first started in 1980: The number of non-television households is still right around 2%, the number of televisions manufactured is almost identical to the birthrate, and the media masters who own television still try to dictate what we think, what we think about, and when we think about it.

The most important thing we've learned

So far as children are concerned

Is never, never, never let

Them near your television set -

Or better still, just don't install

The idiotic thing at all. . .

They sit and stare and stare and sit

Until they're hypnotized by it,

Until they're absolutely drunk

With all that shocking ghastly junk. . .

'All right!' you'll cry. 'All right!' you'll say,

'But if we take the set away,

What shall we do to entertain

Our darling children? Please explain!'

We'll answer this by asking you,

'What used the darling ones to do?

'How used they keep themselves contented

Before this monster was invented?'

Have you forgotten?

Don't you know?

We'll say it very loud and slow:

They used to read.

They'd read and read and read and read and then proceed

To read some more.

-Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
A couple of years back Mary Dixon wrote a brief guide called Start a S.E.T. Chapter in Your Locality: Not hard to do, which outlined several activities step by step. The steps, which apply to organizing around this or almost any other issue, are these:
  1. Decide on an easy-to-find, easy-to-get-to meeting place. Maybe a coffee house where everybody can order what they want and no responsibilities are put on a host or hostess;

  2. Publicize this as best you can. Some papers allow social issue groups to put in a classified ad for free. Consider getting yourself interviewed as a non-watcher of television and include the organizational announcement in the article. Distribute flyers in places like laundromats and libraries. Other newsletters might announce your meeting;

  3. Show up at the announced event. Feel optimistic and positive no matter what happens. If no one shows, enjoy your cuppa and consider what kind of rumblings just your ads and flyers caused. If one other person shows up, the two of you can have a good talk and cook up plans. If more, enjoy each other's company and establish a regular time and place to meet;

  4. Keep organizational matters to a minimum. Concentrate on the purpose of the group. Just talking about the media, reinforcing each other, gives you strength when dealing with others. Other projects are as varied as your imagination:

    • Speaking to other groups
    • Making and displaying posters
    • Entering the Xmas parade as a unit
    • Setting up a booth at a local fair
    • Protesting an offensive media event
    • Starting a small library concerning media and television
    • Working up a comedy routine for a coffee house "open mike" evening
    • Designing quick radio spots and trying to get radio stations to run them as Public Service Announcements, etc.;

  5. Enjoy the process. Since we have nothing to lose, we can be outrageous. Almost any publicity is better than none at all;

  6. Put out a newsletter. Ideas in print seem to carry more weight. Encourage others to find articles and cartoons. Encourage also the writing of articles and submitting of graphics. A newsletter does carry clout, allows people to mull over ideas, gets passed around, and helps to publicize both your ideas and your group.

I hope this brief history of S.E.T. is of interest. More important, I hope it is of use to Match! readers, and that they will soon create two, three, many chapters of the Society for the Eradication of Television.

Permission to post, reprint, forward, or otherwise distribute A Look at How They Do It is hereby granted.

To contact the Society for the Eradication of Television, write to

      Society for the Eradication of Television
      Box 10491
      Oakland, CA 94610-0491

      Send E-mail

To contact The Match!, write to
      The Match!
      Box 3012
      Tucson, Arizona 85702


The number of non-television households is still right around 2%,

the number of televisions manufactured is almost identical to the birthrate,

and the media masters who own television still try to dictate what we think,

what we think about,

and when we think about it.

Society for the Eradication of Television
h t t p : / / w w w . w e b w m . c o m / s e t