My Nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize

The recipient of this year's Nobel Peace Prize will be announced tomorrow.. Like the Oscars, the Nobel awards are a mixture of the appropriate, the bewildering, and the infuriating. The prizes in science, although seldom utterly undeserved, are often controversial, occasionally bitterly disputed, and in at least one case-the discovery of insulin--so embarrassing as to ultimately require official reconsideration and revision.

The history of the Nobel Peace Prize has been especially turbulent, often ignoring worthy candidates like Paul Rusesabagina and sometimes stooping to the idiocy of awards to nonentities like Al Gore, Yasser Arafat, and Barrack Obama. Like a movie that's so bad it's good, I have come to enjoy the unconscious humor of these awards. Last year, Obama's acceptance speech, defending his surge of troops to Afghanistan, had a bizarrre bad taste reminiscent of Monty Python or Richard Curtis. After the Obama farce, it wouldn't surprise me if Osama bin Laden got it next year.

However, there is always the possibility that the Norwegian quintet that decides these matters might be seized by a spasm of common sense and award the prize to someone who has really contributed to world peace. After all, they did once give it to Mother Teresa.

Therefore, I hereby propose that next year's Nobel Peace Prize be awarded for the invention of the mute button on TV remote controls.

No, I don't mean a prize in physics, although they have occasionally been awarded for practical gadgets such as automatic switches for lighthouse lamps. Nobel's will stipulated that the prizes be awarded to those who confer the "greatest benefit on mankind." And I contend that the TV remote mute button has been a tremendously undervalued force for promoting domestic and international tranquility and reducing the tensions that ultimately cause wars.

The mass-psychological root of most uprisings is frustration. The force that fuels the rage of a mob is rarely idealism or controversy about major political or social issues. It is more often the cumulative exacerbation of everyday discontents and disappointments, inflamed by the feeling that those in power are not listening and do not care. It is the frustration of the powerless.

Therefore, anything that eases that frustration is a force for peace. That's why "hope" and "change" were so effective two years ago---and why so many became even more embittered and frustrated when they found out that those promises were false.   

For me, one of the most effective defrustrators is the mute button on my remote module. TV commercials cease to irritate and become a relaxing pleasure as I sit there and watch some huckster urgently delivering a sales pitch that I, and millions like me, have muted. I feel a surge of power as I press the button and shut him up.

Instead of avoiding Obama's speeches, I look forward to them, flicking my button on and off, letting him say a few words and then watching him helplessly mouthing platitudes and lies that I can't hear. It's made the last two years easier to endure.

I therefore feel that the mute button has "benefitted mankind" more than most other modern gadgets and that its invention deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. Although the recipient(s) would obviously be from Zenith Electronics Corporation, the history of the invention is somewhat controversial. The idea was originated in 1950 by Eugene McDonald, Zenith's founder and president, who shared the public's disgust with TV ads. He insisted that his engineers develop a remote station-changer that included a mute button. Eugene Polley, a former stock clerk and self-taught engineer, came up with a light-activated device that rapidly became a best seller. However, problems with sunlight caused senior engineer Robert Adler, a Ph.D. physicist, to develop a sound-activated replacement. Ultimately, Polley's version engendered the TV remote controls we use today.

But there would be no controversy about a Peace Prize nomination. McDonald and Adler became ineligible when they died in 1958 and 2007. The sole survivor, Eugene Polley, now 94, lives modestly in Lombard, Illinois (his birthplace) and is a little bitter about his lack of recognition:

"It makes me think maybe my life wasn't wasted. Maybe I did something for humanity--like the guy who invented the flush toilet."

If they hurry, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has a chance to set things right. Of humble birth and (like Edison) self taught, Polley would be a marvelous model for young inventors of all over the world.

But this is, I suppose, mere wishful thinking. Considering the ultraliberal eccentricities of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, next year's Nobel Peace Prize is more likely to be awarded to somebody like Ahmadinejad.
The recipient of this year's Nobel Peace Prize will be announced tomorrow.. Like the Oscars, the Nobel awards are a mixture of the appropriate, the bewildering, and the infuriating. The prizes in science, although seldom utterly undeserved, are often controversial, occasionally bitterly disputed, and in at least one case-the discovery of insulin--so embarrassing as to ultimately require official reconsideration and revision.

The history of the Nobel Peace Prize has been especially turbulent, often ignoring worthy candidates like Paul Rusesabagina and sometimes stooping to the idiocy of awards to nonentities like Al Gore, Yasser Arafat, and Barrack Obama. Like a movie that's so bad it's good, I have come to enjoy the unconscious humor of these awards. Last year, Obama's acceptance speech, defending his surge of troops to Afghanistan, had a bizarrre bad taste reminiscent of Monty Python or Richard Curtis. After the Obama farce, it wouldn't surprise me if Osama bin Laden got it next year.

However, there is always the possibility that the Norwegian quintet that decides these matters might be seized by a spasm of common sense and award the prize to someone who has really contributed to world peace. After all, they did once give it to Mother Teresa.

Therefore, I hereby propose that next year's Nobel Peace Prize be awarded for the invention of the mute button on TV remote controls.

No, I don't mean a prize in physics, although they have occasionally been awarded for practical gadgets such as automatic switches for lighthouse lamps. Nobel's will stipulated that the prizes be awarded to those who confer the "greatest benefit on mankind." And I contend that the TV remote mute button has been a tremendously undervalued force for promoting domestic and international tranquility and reducing the tensions that ultimately cause wars.

The mass-psychological root of most uprisings is frustration. The force that fuels the rage of a mob is rarely idealism or controversy about major political or social issues. It is more often the cumulative exacerbation of everyday discontents and disappointments, inflamed by the feeling that those in power are not listening and do not care. It is the frustration of the powerless.

Therefore, anything that eases that frustration is a force for peace. That's why "hope" and "change" were so effective two years ago---and why so many became even more embittered and frustrated when they found out that those promises were false.   

For me, one of the most effective defrustrators is the mute button on my remote module. TV commercials cease to irritate and become a relaxing pleasure as I sit there and watch some huckster urgently delivering a sales pitch that I, and millions like me, have muted. I feel a surge of power as I press the button and shut him up.

Instead of avoiding Obama's speeches, I look forward to them, flicking my button on and off, letting him say a few words and then watching him helplessly mouthing platitudes and lies that I can't hear. It's made the last two years easier to endure.

I therefore feel that the mute button has "benefitted mankind" more than most other modern gadgets and that its invention deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. Although the recipient(s) would obviously be from Zenith Electronics Corporation, the history of the invention is somewhat controversial. The idea was originated in 1950 by Eugene McDonald, Zenith's founder and president, who shared the public's disgust with TV ads. He insisted that his engineers develop a remote station-changer that included a mute button. Eugene Polley, a former stock clerk and self-taught engineer, came up with a light-activated device that rapidly became a best seller. However, problems with sunlight caused senior engineer Robert Adler, a Ph.D. physicist, to develop a sound-activated replacement. Ultimately, Polley's version engendered the TV remote controls we use today.

But there would be no controversy about a Peace Prize nomination. McDonald and Adler became ineligible when they died in 1958 and 2007. The sole survivor, Eugene Polley, now 94, lives modestly in Lombard, Illinois (his birthplace) and is a little bitter about his lack of recognition:

"It makes me think maybe my life wasn't wasted. Maybe I did something for humanity--like the guy who invented the flush toilet."

If they hurry, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has a chance to set things right. Of humble birth and (like Edison) self taught, Polley would be a marvelous model for young inventors of all over the world.

But this is, I suppose, mere wishful thinking. Considering the ultraliberal eccentricities of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, next year's Nobel Peace Prize is more likely to be awarded to somebody like Ahmadinejad.