The Unsuitablog

Exposing Ethical Hypocrites Everywhere!

Monthly Undermining Task, January 2010: The Great TV Turn-Off

Posted by keith on January 15th, 2010

“Out-of-Home impact plus the power of television to a captive audience. Reach 5.8 million monthly Atlantans, commanding attention during the entire ride.”

You don’t really notice it, but it’s there, filling your subconscious with a thousand different messages; broadcasting its commercial dominance to an entrapped population. Television is the primary method by which civilized humans are manipulated into carrying out the instructions of the industrial machine; this is no Orwellian fantasy, it is now and it is real, and don’t you feel pissed off that you can’t go anywhere without having your eyes and ears assaulted by this garbage?

The Monthly Undermining Task was instigated in order to remove greenwashing from the world, but because television propagates so much more than just the greenwashing messages of the industrial world, taking down the commercial public television network also removes all sorts of other insidious messages: promises of material fulfillment; political spin; embedded journalism; commercially sponsored “education”. By switching off a television you do nothing less than give people back their ability to think for themselves.

So, are you up for it?

From today, throughout 2010, I would like you to switch off televisions and other electrical hoardings whenever you get the chance. As I explained in the opening article, the risk you take is up to you; you can do this in an almost risk-free environment, or you can take a few chances and do something more permanent. Risk is relative, of course, and the first time you do something like this it always feels a bit dangerous – as though someone is about to walk up behind you and say, “Excuse me, what do you think you are doing?” before escorting you away from the premises.

Not that it really matters if you are asked to leave; but in all my time switching sets off I have never once been escorted away or even caught. The point is: no one expects anyone to switch these damn things off!

Low Risk

Remote Switch Off Opportunity

You see these everywhere now: plasma or LCD screens littering the walls and ceilings of shops, pubs, railway stations, libraries, schools. So insidious yet so fragile. With a wave of the hand you can switch these off. I’m going to recommend a product to do this; if you don’t want to buy it then you will need to take a little more risk (see later).

TV-B-GONE is the product you need; it is available in kit or ready-made form. The link for the ready-made versions is below:

Check it works, attach it to a keyring or just hold it in your hand, and when you see a television that is in a public or commercial place – keeping the LED pointed at the screen – just press the button. It’ll take a while to get used to the order in which televisions are switched off, but in general the most popular models (like Sony, Toshiba and Samsung) go first.

I had great fun sitting on a bench outside a Sony Store, eating a sandwich, while switching off all the televisions within range; I have walked past shops with huge screens inside and knocked them out much to the incredulity of the staff; and I even walked around a music store, “shooting” the TVs off which were situated above the salepeoples’ heads. Great fun and, as I say, I have never been suspected: who would dream of switching televisions off?

Medium Risk

Manual Switch Off Opportunity

The next level of risk is essentially doing the same as for the Low Risk, but without the remote. Obviously there are fewer opportunities to do this, you being limited to what you can physically reach, but there are a few reasons why this might be a better option: first, you don’t have a remote control; second, the display is a computer monitor or other custom display that doesn’t respond to remote controls (these are often in small stores or office-type areas); third, you might want to just make a point of switching the screen off, as described by a correspondant:

My dentist recently instituted an *enormous* widescreen telly in their previously very lovely Georgian house conversion waiting room. It had some trashy Hollywood comedy playing on it when my partner and I were there last year. In fact, it had finished so it got stuck in the irritating sound loop that DVDs go into when they are in their menu screen.

Anyway, later on, we were both back in the waiting room while our xrays and so forth were being attended to, and there was one other middle-aged woman there too reading a magazine and sitting where she couldn’t see the screen. So I switched the TV off. A while later someone who worked there stormed in and switched it back on. I explained that we’d switched it off because noone wanted to watch it and was told off.

The reason for the telling off, I suspect, was not because anything had been damaged, but because the employee of the dentist had the idea in her head that THE TV MUST STAY ON! Why? Because it must. That’s it. Talk about brain death!

You might simply just say to the people in the room: “Is it ok if I turn the TV off?” Chances are no one will object, even if they were blankly staring at the screen. While we’re on the subject of reaction, the thing I have noticed most is that when an “ambient” (a.k.a. subconsciously brainwashing) television goes off, people don’t react at all; if anything they simply switch back into communication mode, and get on with their lives.

See, you are freeing people up. Well done!

High Risk

Now we’re getting into voluntary territory: if you want to take the high risk options then you need to follow the basic rules of Sabotage, as explained in this article:

– Carefully weigh up all the pros and cons, and then ask yourself, “Do the benefits far outweigh the costs?” Only act if the answer is “Yes”.

– Plan ahead, and plan well, accounting for every possible eventuality.

– Even if you value the worth of your actions, don’t get caught.

For legal reasons, I have to write that I don’t condone any breaking of the law nor anything that could potentially harm a living being.

Now, in the case of the displays that you can’t switch off remotely or by pressing a button, more drastic action has to be taken. You really have two options that are practical.

In the case of units that are immobile, like in the image above, it’s not generally practical to simply obscure the picture, so you will need to find the power source. I’m not going to go into any details, and it is highly inadvisable to mess around with breakers and wires if you don’t know precisely what you are doing; nevertheless, if there is a plug socket or obvious rocker switch connected to the unit, then you could just disconnect it. Whether you go further is up to you; but if you can disable a very large display, such as those in major railway stations, then you are a bit of a hero in my eyes.

UPDATE: On a little walk around I found that many of these units, at least in the UK, are controlled using keys that you insert into key switches (also known as “Secret Switches” or “Grid Key Switches”). You can buy the keys online, for instance at this UK outlet. It’s a bit more obvious than hitting a switch, but still something that can be done quickly and easily.

Cover Up Or Power Off 2

For display units on public transport, like the really creepy one in the image above, you will need to be more up-front. Don’t mess around with the power unless there is a switch on the back – you won’t find the source anyway because it has to be hidden well away – I would suggest covering the screen up, perhaps using a professional “Out Of Order” sign or something like this one:

Unsafe Image
(click for large version)

If you have a high visibility jacket or smart suit then you can probably get away without anyone saying anything. You may raise a smile from some of the people who didn’t even realised their eyes were glued to the set. You might even give someone the motivation to do something similar themselves.

And speaking of which; make sure you pass this article to your own networks, Facebook friends, Twitter feeds and put it on your blogs – here’s the link:

I have a funny feeling we will be seeing fewer usable televisions in 2010…


Just so you know I’m not asking people to do anything I wouldn’t; yesterday I walked the length of Oxford Street in London, and switched off approximately 50 TV screens both in shop windows and in-store, some of which were being watched at the time! No one had a clue what was happening, and most simply walked away. The biggest coups were switching off the 2 metre tall vertical flat-panel in Benetton, and the wonderful silence after switching off a bank of blaring screens in HMV. Go on, you know you can do it!

12 Responses to “Monthly Undermining Task, January 2010: The Great TV Turn-Off”

  1. Simon Says:

    Do you know if tv-be-gone is available in this country – I see that the website shown means they have to be shipped from the US

  2. keith Says:

    Hi Simon

    I ordered mine from the States, but I have also seen them on and probably on other UK web sites too. Make sure you get the European model, version 2 or later.


  3. AEB Says:

    A little more like it… See? We’re not so far apart…

  4. keith Says:

    You should see what’s coming up. :-)

  5. AEB Says:

    I’ve got you tuned in on my reader now, so I’ll keep an eye out. Go easy on them!

    BTW, an e-mail feed would be nice.

  6. keith Says:

    Hi AEB, thanks for the feed. I have tried mail subscriptions before but they are hell to manage manually – I don’t have access to the site source so can’t set up a list service, unfortunately.


  7. Nikki Craft Says:

    I have a measly little savings account at Bank of America that i use for cashing checks so I have an occasion to be in there every now and then for big money transactions for like 25.00 to a few hundred. My average balance is 5.00. :) They had a big tv installed that they are so proud of and they were piping in Fox Ne…ws until I found myself in the line one day when Neil Cavuto came on with his coverage of strippers and hookers. I complained to the manager of the bank and they have never had Fox on again. He assured me that I would never have to endure half naked bimbettes again while I was banking there. Wouldn’t it be a nice to see a national policy at BofA that they not play Fox at all their branches because the nekked women are offensive to women customers? We also got it off at the gym as their primary station many years ago. This is a great project Keith has started here and I love the “UNSAFE IMAGE! Please Do Not Watch This Screen”. We should put it on all the Walmart advertising …

  8. Steven Earl Salmony Says:

    It appears to me as if one certain thing humanity cannot keep doing much longer is the very same thing we are so adamantly and foolishly doing now as the self-proclaimed Masters of the Universe among us choose to recklessly speed up the ever increasing, seemingly endless growth of the global economy as well as to deceptively manipulate human beings into going along with a conspicuous per-capita overconsumption and unreserved overpopulation agenda.

    If we keep doing what we are doing now and the human community keeps getting what it is getting now, I fear that sooner rather than later everything we are led to believe we are protecting and preserving will be ruined. In the not-too-distant future a distinct probability could exist that one of two colossal calamities will occur. The wanton dissipation of Earth’s limited resources, the relentless degradation of Earth’s frangible environment, and the approaching destruction of the Earth as a fit place for human habitation by the human species, when taken together, appear to be proceeding toward the precipitation of a catastrophic ecological wreckage of some unimaginable sort unless, of course, the world’s ever expanding, artificially designed, manmade global political economy (the modern “economic colossus”) continues to speed headlong toward the monolithic ‘wall’ called “unsustainability” at which point humanity’s runaway economy crashes before Earth’s ecology is collapsed.

    Could we talk about the need for a new vision for life on Earth?

    Months ago Andy Revkin of the NYTimes and the Dot Earth community asked the question, “What does humanity do when we grow up?” Dr. Joel Cohen has explained elsewhere how humanity is currently in an adolescent phase of its development and is moving toward maturity. Other experts have suggested that the behavior of people in many places is even more primitive, in the sense of being less grown-up than adolescents and more nearly infantile.

    Perhaps another way of coming up with a new vision would be to ask the question, “What might a human world look like when full grown, mature human beings with feet of clay design, construct and organize a new world order in the future?”

  9. Andy Wright Says:

    Had one of these for a few years now. Very good. Wouldn’t advise using in a pub while the football is on though!… Looking forward to this month’s challenge.

  10. keith Says:

    Thanks Andy. Agree about the pub – could be a precursor to death! Although a casual wave of the key outside a “Sports Bar” could be fun

    I’m assembling the super TV-B-Gone at the moment; never soldered before so it’ll be fun.

    This month I’m torn between poster defacement and fake press releases…

  11. Richard Kenyon Says:

    Got my TV-B-Gone…!

    Switched off a TV playing to nobody (for hour after hour) in a High School I teach in. They’re talking about cutting staff next year & they leave TVs on all day…

  12. keith Says:

    Excellent, Richard. Keep doing it, and have fun in the High Street too :-)

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