Monday, October 24, 2011

Disconnecting the Cable

I have worked in the media and youth ministry for years. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a parent tell me that the solution to solving negative media influence was to disconnect the cable box. They were convinced that their kids were now protected from the evil influence of today’s media. It’s a nice fantasy. Perhaps, it might help you to sleep at night, but it doesn’t work. Disconnecting the cable box is not the answer.

Media influence is everywhere. In fact, it’s led to a media culture where media and culture have combined a force that is capable of creating its own reality and truth that we accept as normal. If you think about what I have written, it can be an unsettling feeling. You could run to a bunker, but of course that’s not the answer either. It used to be much simpler before the age of mass media

Back in the 19th Century, most people lived on farms and rarely traveled more than twenty miles. They had little or no contact outside of their immediate family or community. Media influence was practically nonexistent. But when people started moving to the big cities, everything changed. Now we are forced to deal with it whether we like it or not.

The first step is to recognize that media does influence us, often in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways. But the key to understanding media influence is to think of it as a process that occurs over time and takes place through five distinct levels.

Level I – Direct Contact. Is there any question that we are influenced by the movies, music and television programs we view and listen to?. I can offer you study by study about media influence. But here’s the best example that I think we all can relate to. Advertisers spend billions of dollars to convince you to buy their products and services. Who in their right mind would spend $3 million on a 30-second spot in the Super Bowl if it didn’t work? Most people don’t want to believe that they are being influenced by the media. But the facts don’t lie.

Level II – Indirect Contact. You and I are influenced by the people around us—our friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbors, etc. The people you know have been influenced by the media just as much as you’ve been. Chances are by movies and other forms of media that you have not directly been exposed to; therefore, you will be influenced whether consciously or unconsciously by the people you come in contact with. The important thing to remember is much of the media influence in your life will come from sources other than you being directly influenced by consuming it firsthand.

Level III – Institutional Contact. We are influenced by people we will never meet. How is this possible? This occurs through our institutions—schools, churches, government, business, and the media in general. Nothing exists within a vacuum. Our institutions are influenced by you, the people you know and the people you don’t know. Our institutions are made up of embedded values that develop over time. For example, our schools in some cases are changing text books and may be in the process of rewriting or erasing history. There has been a big controversy over this recently in Texas. But does history really change? By changing history, we change what people think as truth. Just because someone doesn’t have the same view, it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. And whose version of history are we talking about? For years, the media has questioned and continue to question the role that Judea-Christian values played in the founding of our nation. Today, that view is being reflected in what is being taught in our schools.

Level IV – Cultural Contact. You, the people you know, the people you don’t know and our institutions eventually form our cultural framework. Culture is more than just going to the opera. Culture helps to define our beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. We soon understand what’s important and what’s not important by their inclusion or exclusion. We take our cues from culture, and culture takes its cues from the media.

Level V – A Shared Consciousness. Culture eventually leads us to a shared consciousness, a collective way of thinking. Think of it in this way. We are wired and programmed to think in a certain way by the values and principles the culture believes are true. Our myths become reality because the media has the power to influence you, the people you know, the people you don’t know, our institutions and our culture.

Our collective consciousness leads us to an understanding of what is right or wrong. For example, why do men and women use separate bathrooms? We know instinctively that it is wrong for a man to use the women’s bathroom or vice versa.

Although, this concept is cut and dry, others are not. As a result, our collective consciousness has led us to some disturbing trends in the past few years. Our media culture is teaching us that truth is relevant. You and I, therefore, must now determine our own truth based on our circumstances and situation. The collective consciousness defines truth as a moving target. It is not consistent. This is in conflict with our Judeo-Christians principles where truth is defined by God’s Word.

Another example would be that our shared consciousness has embraced the importance of consumerism and materialism. We are defined by the things we own. Remember the car commercial that goes something like this: the things we make, make us. The products we now use are an extension of our lifestyle. We are the products, and the products are us. How did we get to this point to believe and accept such things? It’s very simple. The media culture is shaping our worldview and our shared consciousness.

Bottom Line: There are no easy answers to media influence. But pulling the cable box, dismantling your satellite, or dropping out of society is not the answer. Begin paying attention to what you see and hear on television, especially the commercials. Look for media that supports and embraces a positive influence which can lead to positive change in you, the people you know, the people you don’t know, our institutions, our culture and, ultimately, our shared consciousness as a people.

If you want to research this subject, check out my book, The Red Pill, The Cure for Today’s Media Culture. I have spent several years researching this topic.

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