Is media idiocy necessary?  

Posted by Denis Haack in , , ,

In the April 2011 issue of The Atlantic, James Fallows wrote a fascinating piece, “Learning to Love the (Shallow, Divisive, Unreliable) New Media” exploring the digital media revolution that is occurring in the world of news. It’s worth reading and discussing, because the changing media landscape is a reality that helps shape our thinking, beliefs, and lives.

One paragraph gives both the flavor of the essay and raises a question that is worth careful reflection:

“If we accept that the media will probably become more and more market-minded, and that an imposed conscience in the form of legal requirements or traditional publishing norms will probably have less and less effect, what are the results we most fear? I think there are four:
            that this will become an age of lies, idiocy, and a complete Babel of ‘truthiness,’ in which no trusted arbiter can establish reality or facts;
            that the media will fail to cover too much of what really matters, as they are drawn toward the sparkle of entertainment and away from the depressing realities of the statehouse, the African capital, the urban school system, the corporate office when corners are being cut;
            that the forces already pulverizing American society into component granules will grow all the stronger, as people withdraw into their own separate information spheres;
            and that our very ability to think, concentrate, and decide will deteriorate, as a media system optimized for attracting quick hits turns into a continual-distraction machine for society as a whole, making every individual and collective problem harder to assess and respond to.

It seems to me that there are several reasons why Christians should have an advantage in this area, so that as the digital revolution unfolds, the church can increasingly become a bulwark of careful thinking and disciplined reading. We are people of the Word and so have all the more reason to take words—and truth—with utmost seriousness. We are already organized and used to discussion so that learning from one another to choose and read media sources with discernment should be possible. And we have a final authority in the Scriptures so that we are not dependent on media pundits to spell out the opinions we should hold.

The question, of course, at this point is simple. Will Christians take advantage of these things or will we merely flow along with the rest of our world, seduced by the most clever rhetoric, drawn into the ideologies of the Left and the Right, open to adopting whatever myths are spawned in a cynical world, and overwhelmed by the profusion of media options?

This entry was posted at Thursday, April 05, 2012 and is filed under , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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