Rosenzweig’s essay “Can TV Improve Us?” refers to prime time television characters depicting American society to be solely made up of photogenic young people with disintegrating families and liberal attitudes about sex. Seeing as television was being blamed for certain types of negative behaviours Rosenzweig suggests that television could also possibly influence and create positive behaviour. She also argues that with television, awareness can be raised within a nation and effect change, using the issue of drunk driving and the importance of a designated driver. Using results from polls taken by the Roper Organization, the essay shows the results before and after the designated driver campaign and the decline of drunk driving related accidents. While this article reports research supporting the view that television can raise awareness of a nation and create change, the conclusion that television alone can improve social awareness is based on a misinterpretation of the evidence and assumes a causal relation between the two as well as multiple premises that unless addressed directly cause the argument to fall through.
The essay has a clear message: television can raise awareness, effect change and will appeal to large audiences. This argument is supported by the Harvard Alcohol Project’s results of a poll, taken by the Roper Organization. Rosenzweig’s position, if true, would allow advocacy groups to instill values of a particular religion, or an intolerant political group on TV. However, despite the appearance of logic, it fails to make this position credible. Logically TV alone is not enough to spark social change. With other factors such as social status, family, and education, the effectiveness of TV can vary greatly among a certain target audience. Another factor would be access to a television. It’s not likely that every American has time or money to see the issue being raised. These factors are logical yet not taken into account and rely on assumptions of multiple unstated premises to make the argument work (somewhat.)
The figures show “a decline in drunk driving fatalities from 1988 to 1997; and, that by 1991, 37% of all US adults have at last once refrained from drinking in order to serve as the designated driver.” Rosenzweig is once again assuming a correlation to a cause, suggesting that all American adults have seen the designated driving campaign, and all adults in America have been polled on whether or not they have been a designated driver – a highly unlikely statistic.