A little while ago I had written an article about rediscovering Harlan and of my goal on reading all of his books in published order. Well, in moving forward with this goal I recently read The Glass Teat.
I was looking forward to this book, since it has a great reputation, being well reviewed and received. Also the book contains columns of articles Mr. Ellison wrote in the late sixties for the Los Angeles Free Press and I am a huge fan of Mr. Ellison’s essays.
Now I had heard this book was about television, and I had heard that these columns got the attention of then Vice President Spiro Agnew, who helped limit the popularity of the book and killed the Sequel. This never made sense to me. How does television criticism make you an enemy of the government? Well I have read The Glass Teat and all my questions have been answered.
The Glass Teat is not really about television shows it is really about television as a medium, and how that medium relates to our society at that time. Television is an amazing invention of man. It is a tool which can reflect our society as a whole and in parts, it also can inform society about current news and of our history, but it also can be used to shape or society with ideas and opinions.
Harlan Ellison was commenting on all of this within the pages of The Glass Teat as well has telling you why Family Affair Sucked and why everyone should be tuning into the Smothers Brothers.
Ellison was using these columns as a way of pointing out political climate of our times as they were being broadcast into everyone’s living room. His beliefs are very liberal and his language at times is raw and full of passion. He observes current events of the time, through his television and gives the reader his observation and opinions, right down their throats!
The subject matter ranges from Vietnam, college protest, religion, education, film, tv shows and the Common Man.
As I read the book, I found that it was affecting emotionally. It was making me depressed, sad and very angry! Why? Because as I read I began to realize that we have not changed. Many of the issues that Ellison was writing about has not changed one bit since the late 60s. If fact if anything they have gotten worse. At least in the 60s there were protestors marching in the street demanding change, today everyone is too damn busy looking into their iPhones to care. For example, Ellison touches on news outlets shaping political opinion, today we have FOX news and MSNBC news each with their own political propaganda (However I do believe that FOX has this down to an art). Ellison notes about cover ups of mass killings of Vietnam civilians with Senators at the time saying it’s okay since they are not Americans. Today we have Gitmo and Senators saying it’s okay to torture if they are terrorists. Also Mr. Ellison does a column about a film review of a documentary about the “Common Man”. While reading his column and their opinions on welfare, race, and war I thought “Oh my god, that’s the Tea Party”. It appears that the old adage “those who forget history are doomed to repeat it” hold true, horribly true. It’s been over forty years since these articles were first written, and we as a society we have not evolved have not grown. Yes it saddens me and I am angry.
Many people before me have stated that Harlan Ellison’s book The Glass Teat was an important book when it was first released. I contend that it is even more important today. Yes this book upset me, thank goodness for that.