Idol Chatter

oprahpic.jpgDid you know that Rush Limbaugh made $54 million dollars last year? And, he’s not not even on the top of the list of the wealthiest celebrities.
According to a current Forbes magazine report, Oprah made $275 million even in a year when advertising revenues are down due to the current economic challenges. Phil McGraw (“Dr. Phil”) is making $80 million. “American Idol’s” Simon Cowell ($75 million), Sirius radio’s Howard Stern ($70 million) and Donald Trump ($50 million) join Limbaugh on the top half of the list.

Imagine that: “The Donald” is making more from “The Apprentice” (and his subsequent books and speaking fees) than he would typically be making in the declining real estate market from which he originally built his fortune and brand.
Which leads me to ask the question: If the top twelve media personalities alone banked a total of $829 million last year–then when will our culture wake up to the fact that what we see on the air is not so much a reflection of culture but a reflection of what generates money for media stars and all of those who make money off of their shows?
In Matthew 6:24, Jesus said “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” And yet, many of these uber-wealthy are also the uber-leaders in our uber-media-driven-culture. So where does that leave us?
It’s a subtle problem, but the truth remains that the media doesn’t reflect culture, but it shapes it. And if money is driving them, then money is driving our culture, rather than faith, philosophy, convictions, art, science and the creative expressions of the individuals who make our country strong and alive. How can one trust whether Oprah’s latest book club recommendation is driven by faith journey or by marketability? What’s the difference between Dr. Phil’s latest advice and Dr. Phil’s latest book push? Is Limbaugh fighting for the faith or for his financial future?
Most of these stars don’t make all of their money from their shows. They really make it from the books, speaking fees, endorsements, and other media-driven buzz that’s generated from both their professional and personal lives. The young person who follows their perceived lead has a picture of reality that is fabricated and promoted to drive the gazillions of dollars made not only by these stars but by all of those who make money from their success.
I would like to believe that there is a sub-culture growing through the internet or alternative media outlets or social communities or even houses of worship, but the numbers sure say that America is following the mainstream media stars, and I’m not sure that’s good for us.

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