Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 01/24/22

Imagine the Woke Media as a psychiatrist. It would by like the worst psychiatrist imaginable – shaming you over past failings that you’ve worked hard to overcome or, alternatively, encouraging counterproductive grudge-holding over issues that occurred many years ago (perhaps before you were even born).

Imagine the Woke Media as a family counselor that actually fans the flames of tensions and name calling instead of encouraging understanding, mutual respect and healing. Imagine if such a counselor cut-off honest discussion over current issues facing the family by simply labeling the views of half the family as “false” or a “big lie.”

And, to the extent that Dr. Woke Media encourages looking into the future, it does so not by encouraging hope but by promoting a sense of dread, fear, powerlessness and doom – and, of course, never-ending dependence on it and its partner Woke Government.

All in all, it’s a prescription for depression. Any actual psychiatric that behaved like that would be engaging in malpractice and would, rightly, be fired by its clients.

That, it seems to me, is largely where the American people stand when it comes to our relationship with the Big Media corporate conglomerates that have abused our trust. It’s why so many Zoomers are looking to a time before they were born for relief from the dourness of present-day mass culture. They’re not alone. All of us are fed up with the toxic relationship between Big Media and the public it is supposed to inform, entertain and inspire. Despite their constant handing out of awards to each other and the self praise in outlets they own, they are failing miserably on all three counts.

Broadly, there are four sectors of Big Media, including News, Entertainment, Social Media and Education. These are the very things that shape our views of ourselves, our culture, our politics and, ultimately, our freedom. Here’s what most of us want and expect from each of them. Alas, we’re being given the opposite.

We expect our news media to humbly deliver us the information we need to know without a giant thumb on the scale. On the news side, we could do with fewer adjectives where one side’s point of view is constantly labeled as “false” while another side “must be believed.” Simply put, our humble news deliverers should stop presuming to know the truth before all the pertinent facts are even known – and, even then, just report the facts. Respect your audience to figure out where the truth (and the nuance) is. Opinion is fine and even helpful but there needs to be a clear firewall between what is news and what is opinion – and we expect even opinion to be rendered thoughtfully, respectfully and without name calling.

We expect to actually be entertained and not lectured to by the self-important. Most of us work hard for a living. At the end of the day, we want to kick back with a mix of comedies that make us laugh out loud and escapist mysteries and adventures. Thought-provoking dramas are good but, please, hold the smug superiority.

We’re also tired of seeing beloved old properties rebooted with dark tones and Woke messaging. We’re all for increased diversity. That’s actually an improvement from the past – but we’d like to see it accomplished without the genetic hypersensitivity and, instead, in a way that reminds us of how alike we all are in terms of our humanity.

We want our entertainment to be hopeful about the future and, yes, many of us are yearning for a wholesome patriotism that unites us a country. We want stories about heroes that, even if flawed, are trying and are essentially good. Again, this is not to say that entertainment movies, TV programming, music or novels programming should not touch on serious themes (such as racism). But there needs to be a balance that tilts toward hope and healing. Frankly, like a body that has consumed excessive amounts much processed sugar, our culture is suffering from unhealthy inflammation. We need a good injection of apolitical positive entertainment to regain our equilibrium and reawaken our confidence and energy. It would actually be a service to society to provide that. The question is do those who control the levers of Big Media event want to?

BTW, remember when TV shows had optimistic theme songs that stayed in your head even after the shows they introduced were over. Now, for some reason, those are largely gone. Those songs not only served as great promotions for the series they lead into (which makes their near disappearance all the more inexplicable), they were often therapeutic to people going through tough times. Take this one for example – and listen to the words:

You can add these: Cheers, Friends, The Jefferson, Good Times, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Perfect Strangers, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Eight is Enough, The Paper Chase, Hardcastle & McCormick, The Greatest American Hero and even feel-good  instrumentals like Room 222 and the rousing theme from The A-Team, among countless others. Even if you aren’t particularly a fan of the shows these songs came from, when they come on they make you feel good. Bring back the TV theme song!

Social Media
The newest leg of the Big Media table includes, Facebook, Twitter and the various apps and websites where people feel fine blurting out whatever supposedly amazing thought that pops into their minds – for some, the nastier (toward some supposedly inferior segment of the population) the better. Having public forums where ordinary people who, otherwise, lack a media megaphone is a good thing. There are two problems though.

First, somewhere along the line the small group of mostly like-minded people who control these operations have either decided (or have been pressured to decide) that it’s there job to act as the Truth Police – as if, historically, supposed “misinformation” hasn’t over time been revealed to be the actual truth. Most of us are more worried about government, corporate and/or Twitter mob censorship than we are about people being free to express controversial or even wrong opinions. Go ahead. Try to convince us the world is flat if you want to.

Secondly, while the powers that be are worried about censoring opinion, they seem to actually encourage a coarsening of the dialogue that takes place on their platforms. If you want to take a quick trip to Crazy Land check out the reader comments Mediaite where virtually any subject quickly deteriorates into absurdly base name calling. To be clear, the N word, the F word, actual threats to people, unambiguous hate speech and pornography are on the short list (and the list should remain short) of what appropriately should be kept off of social media.

At its best, Social Media should not ban conversation but elevate it. That’s clearly not happening now.

People don’t often think of Education as being a form of media but, in some ways, its the most important form because it’s directed at young people who have not yet developed the B.S. detectors we all need to navigate life. They’re particularly susceptible to being shamed and otherwise manipulated. We don’t want our school system to be exploited as a means of producing political activists. Younger grades need to focus on basic reading, writing, math and science skills.

Our kids should also be learning about responsibly handling money, self-sufficiency  and growing capital. They should be learning basic morality – like be kind, don’t lie, cheat or bully anyone. They should be taught not to use nasty language against others but not to crumble if it’s used against them. When I was a kid we were taught that names can’t hurt us if we don’t give them the power to. Teaching kids otherwise does them no favors.

And, yes, they need to learn the good and the bad of history – a broad history that reveals America has a monopoly on neither virtue or sin. They should certainly be made aware of the progress that has been made over the centuries, often at great sacrifice, the value of maintaining that progress and the folly of throwing it away to re-fight ancient battles while others divide and gain power. As they grow, they need to understand the objective difference between fact and opinion so they can avoid being manipulated.

Colleges, meanwhile, must again become a place where opposing ideas are tested, not shut down. Higher Education is the goal, not Higher Indoctrination. Increasing reading lists to be more diverse is a good thing that doesn’t necessitate denigrating Shakespeare or other traditional figures of Western culture.

Summing Up
What it all comes down to is we want those we entrust with nurturing our culture to lift us up to a point of balance, respect for boundaries (own own and others), courageous optimism, discernment, wholesome discipline, empathy and forgiveness, gratitude, humor and a sense of positive personal and national purpose.  Right now, we are being fed a media diet that, at almost every turn, promotes exactly the opposite. You have to wonder why.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
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