Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fear and Media

I recently finished reading Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death, based upon a recommendation by my friend T. David Gordon. Though the examples are dated, the thesis stands the test of time well. The book can be purchased new from Cumberland Books.

Among the observations are that mass television media trivializes the significant, and by its nature as a medium, cannot do otherwise. I love the Internet as a way allow more ideas to be heard. However, most Internet news is just as trivial, but just in greater quantity.

Perhaps more important, I also believe that 24 hour assaults of online news are probably as harmful as some of the more widely acknowledged harmful things to be found on the seedier side of the web. The web provides an endless supply of disturbing news and adds ways to share one's sense of terror or disgust through email and forums. The daily commute reinforces this with talk radio, which is fed in part by the web. TV news is now 24/7, and contains so much data that scroll bars are necessary to augment the talking head.

I have been a member of a couple of political activist type forums. On these, I notice a cycle of fear and outrage, neither of which are healthy and neither of which will necessarily solve anything. (Ultimately, our political problems our cultural and spiritual, which is the subject for another post)

To offer some solace, I highly commend this essay by the Reverend Franklin Sanders. It is so good, I keep a printed copy in my office as an antidote to what might show up in my email box.


LizBeth said...

Hey! That was good. Thanks.

The Midland Agrarian said...

You are Welcome!

Linda J. said...

Great reminder!

Lucy said...

I appreciate the spirit of his commentary, but I find it naive, at best. Sanders wrote "In fact, no government has all power and all money and all personnel to pursue anyone. Broad as their resources may seem, covering over 250,000,000 people they are very scanty. Therefore governments much choose whom they will track and persecute. Unless you offer a very juicy target, you’re just too small to blip on their radar screen."

I would suggest some readings on Soviet Russia might be in order. One fantastic book is "Red Sky, Black Death" by Anna Timofeyeva-Yegorova, which is ostensibly the story of a Russian female fighter pilot, but it is inseparably intertwined with the story of Soviet persecution and control of its citizenry. This was the 1940's, before individuals left trails of credit card use and internet access, and before government had super computers to sift and sort all the "evidence".

The Midland Agrarian said...

Hi Lucy,
thanks for your thoughtful comment. I have read some on the evil empire and actually met some victims of communist persecution.

My best response is that Russia is a very different place and very different culture. Historically, most Russians were happy to trade Liberty for order whether under the Soviets or Tsars...It is a culture with:

No heritage of widespread literacy
No heritage of a free press
No cultural support for speaking truth to power

Whether WE can hold on to these parts of our heritage is another question!