Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Vanishing Word: Media Manipulation


There is a big difference between processing information on a printed page compared with processing data conveyed through a series of moving pictures. Images have a way of evoking an emotional response. Pictures have a way of pushing rational discourse-linear logic-into the background. The chief aim of television is to sell products and entertain audiences. Television seeks emotional gratification. As a visual medium, television programming is designed to be amusing. Substance gives way to sounds and sights. Hard facts are undermined by stirring feelings. Important issues are drowned out by dramatic images. Reason is replaced by emotion. The Vanishing Word: Arthur Hunt III

Hunt goes on to explain that we are possibly entering a "high-tech version of the Dark Ages". He states that the Judeo-Christian heritage which has characteristically been word-dependent is contrasted with paganism, which typically has been image dependent.

The Vanishing Word is a wonderful book that delves into the historical rise and fall of cultures, due to a word based culture versus a image based culture.

We have rapidly emerged into an image based, superficial media drenched culture and the Church itself is following suit. The Emergent and Seeker-friendly churches seem to embrace images over the written word, and emotional content overshadows objective truth. Much of the controversy surrounding the Church today is the claim that anyone who stands on the objective, concrete, unchanging Word of God, is at most a "pharisee".

Media manipulation is rampant in our culture. It shows up on the news, sitcoms, talk shows, and movies. Our country is becoming illiterate and unable to discern truth from manipulation. After all, if it is on network news, it must be true, right?

Lately there has been much controversy over the movie The End of the Spear. The controversy has mostly centered around a gay activist actor playing the part of a missionary. An undercurrent to the movie which is not covered as much, is the idea that the Gospel is not clearly presented. That may or may not be true, as I have not gone to see the movie. I have to confess that I don't go to many "Christian" movies. I find them somewhat contrived, and the search for emotional content to sway the viewer is too sappy in my opinion. I suggested on one forum, that folks go see Babette's Feast, or To End All Wars for excellent Christian themes. Incidentally, To End All Wars makes an excellent point of the importance of books. Books were a saving grace to enable the prisoners of war to have hope in the midst of a dismal, horrific situation. I digress. Where was I?...oh yeah...the Gospel presented in the movie. Some Christians believe that the Gospel should be presented in an emotional, palatable fashion in order to engage the unbeliever. Flash will flatter folks into the fold, seems to be the prevailing thought of the day. What a difference from the days of the Puritans when children were able to read through the Word of God by the time they were four years old! Thanks to Sesame Street, if the words don't dance and sing, they will not hold our attention. So it is with the media. Media lures, seduces, deceives, anathesizes ( and actually sometimes teaches, I concede) the populace. Hopefully, discerning Christians can make a stand for excellence and truth in the midst of media manipulation.

I hope to post some ideas that Hunt presents in his book. It is a fascinating read dealing with historical and cultural trends surrounding the written word and how words have affected society in general.

4 Comments:

At 11:40 PM, Blogger Gordon Cloud said...

Good post. I think the reason emergents favor visuals is they seem to have the same purpose and philosophy as the local theater: draw a crowd. I hope I don't sound to judgemental in this, but it certainly seems to be the case.

 
At 5:50 AM, Blogger candyinsierras said...

I tend to agree. One interesting note. The emergent church is the generation that was brought up on Sesame Street after all. :)

 
At 12:45 PM, Blogger Gordon Cloud said...

Astute observation. I'm glad now that may parents never let me watch Sesame Street. Incidentally, I am a big fan of Tigger.

 
At 4:09 PM, Blogger candyinsierras said...

Well now, Tigger is a whole different story! Long ago and far away, a friend told me I reminded her of Eeyore. I was going through a lot of trials then. I myself am a fan of Hobbes.

 

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