Dethroning the Media Gods

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Dethroning the Media Gods

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Down! Down with the media gods! Down with the purveyors of profit at the expense of the spirit! Down with the entertainers and gamers of destruction. Down with the raucous, mesmerizing music of malevolence and its flashing scenes of immorality!

Down with the moguls and idols of mass media and their corrupted ethic of insidious influence on God's children!

Up with the family and with young minds made aware of the mass media's crafty techniques to torque and twist their emotions and the truth! Up with the power of the "off" button on the remote! Up with young adults who have the self-discipline and the divine insight to choose the right kind of entertainment, music and news reporting in the mass media!

Not long ago I found myself as an academically active dad addressing a senate committee on media literacy from the citizen legislature of the U.S. state of Oregon. A consortium of educators and parents sought to have the state board of education launch a program to educate young students about how television, music videos, computer games and movies inordinately influence and condition young minds.

Yes, my friends, it's time to debunk the "media gods" and understand how the mass media condition our minds to accept their wrong worldview and to act on their social and commercial messages. But please understand, not all of mass media is bad—just most of it.

The mass of media

That mass media is a massive part of your life in this era of "screenagers" has become all too clear in recent years. Before the average child reaches first grade in America , he or she will have watched more hours of television than a university student sits in class to graduate with a four-year bachelor's degree.

Just to graduate from secondary or high school you will spend about 12,000 hours in class, but your unwary classmates will spend twice that many hours in the mental embrace of various forms of mass media.

There is also the "mess" of media. The average 18-year-old in the United States has witnessed on television 200,000 acts of violence, with 40,000 of those being murders. Chilling is the stat that in 75 percent of the violent scenes, no immediate punishment is portrayed (National Institute on Media and the Family).

The savvy already know that "because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Ecclesiastes 8:11 ).

And the savvy are right. Study after study has proved that virtual violence (and yes, that definitely includes video game violence, which is not even reflected in the above statistic) triggers aggressive and violent behavior in young people.

Both the American Academy of Pediatrics ( and the Canadian Pediatric Society ( on their Web sites officially cite from their research and other studies grave concerns about the level and intensity of media violence—and sexuality.

Add to the testimony of those auspicious bodies the U.S. research document "Youth Violence: A Report of the Surgeon General" (, plus numerous university research projects around the world, including the Media Literacy Online Project of the College of Education at the University of Oregon ( Media affects behavior—otherwise why would the networks charge so much for mass media advertising? Think about it.

In the 20 years between 1976 and 1996, during the prime-time family television viewing hour from 8 to 9 p.m. (Eastern Time), the amount of sexual interactions increased a staggering 270 percent. It doesn't take rocket science to realize that the television sex trend has continued to ramp up in the last 10 years.

"Yes," some might say, "but what if it's the healthy sexual parley between a husband and wife?" You're kidding, right? Considering the secular, postmodern worldview of the media movers and shakers of film, television, video gaming and music videos, one of the last things they want to portray is the right kind of marital sexual attraction.

Speaking of music videos, everyone knows about the dominating themes of sexual disrespect, abuse and violence toward women and girls that is so graphically depicted in both the lyrics and scenes.

Don't think for a minute that it doesn't negatively condition your mind against the marvelous joy God created for marriage alone.

This is your brain

"Our awesomely complex, yet elegantly simple brain is the best organized three pounds of matter in the known universe," declares University of Oregon professor of education Robert Sylwester in his article "The Effects of Electronic Media on a Developing Brain," which is listed on the school's Media Literacy Online Project.

God hardwired our brains with three differently functioning sections commonly known as the forebrain, midbrain and hindbrain (at the back of your head). The forebrain or cortex is where the physical element of analytical thinking, weighing and considering takes place. However, our emotional responses and convictions—accepted or perceived truths—emanate from the midbrain or limbic section of our brains.

We hear, see, touch and otherwise gather information, then think about whether it is true in the cortical forebrain. This section of the brain works more slowly and systematically.

When finally we draw a conclusion on a matter, our acceptance of that fact settles into the limbic midbrain, and we believe it at the deep, emotive level. It becomes a "given" when reasoning about a related topic in the future. Thus the midbrain serves as the seat of both emotion and value judgments of what we think is true.

The midbrain section also generates the "fight or flight" survival reactions to danger or fear or the rather explosive emotions of anger, or generally of any intense primal emotions. God made us prepared to get out of the way of something that could hurt us, and to exert great emotional energy to experience and accomplish good things in life. The midbrain fills a very powerful role in molding our thoughts and actions.

This is your brain on mass media

If too much stimulation bombards the logical forebrain, it can in effect overload, and begin to react emotionally with the midbrain. Separate flashing images or pictures accompanied by skull-throbbing bass rhythm and white noise melody can create a sensory overload to the point that the primal emotions activate.

Suddenly the heart races and the brain, in lieu of cognitive thinking, begins to accept the message of the music video—violence is good, rebellion is good, disrespect of others is good, sexual immorality is good . . . That's why the heavy beat is mesmerizing.

As Professor Sylwester describes it: "Emotion drives attention, which drives learning, memory, and behavior, so mass media often insert strong primal emotional elements into their programming to increase attention. Since violence and sexuality in media trigger primal emotions, most young people confront thousands of violent acts and heavy doses of sexuality during their childhood media interactions."

Within reason—and with reason—a level of emotional impact in a film or other media is good. When there is too much of it—as in gratuitous, graphic violence or explicit sex scenes—the media experience is manipulating our emotions and minds.

We have two response systems built into our minds. One is a basically slow, analytic, reflective system using the cortical forebrain circuitry, which tends to explore the facts and deliberately respond. The second is a faster, conceptual system that "identifies the fearful and survival elements in a situation and activates automatic response patterns" (ibid.).

The fast system responds to and "focuses on any loud/looming/contrasting/moving/obnoxious/attractive elements that might signal danger, food and/or mates . . . This system thus enhances survival, but its rapid superficial analysis often leads us to respond fearfully, impulsively, and inappropriately to situations that didn't require an immediate response (regrets and apologies usually follow). . . People often use mass media to exploit this system by stressing elements that trigger irrational fear responses" (ibid.).

How does this mess with your mind? "The fast pacing of TV and video game programming, and their focus on bizarre/violent/sexual elements also trigger this system. If the audience perceives these elements and the resulting visceral responses as the realworld norm, the electronic media must continually escalate the violent/sexual/bizarre behavior to trigger the fast system" (ibid.).

If you make yourself a part of that audience, then your development of rational thought will suffer in your mind, and you will begin to feel at the deep, emotive level that such sinful behavior is not only normal, but acceptable and good.

"Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20).

Today's mass media gods mess with our minds if they can, conditioning us to accept theirg morals and overall skewed worldview. And the true God of the Bibl wrone is not pleased.

What can you do?

• Prayerfully commit yourself to God and His Word.

• Analyze the mass media in your life now.

• Reject manipulative, sin-inducing shows, movies, games, music and music videos.

• Seek entertainment that emphasizes honesty, truth, fairness, biblical morality, accurate portrayals and positive hope (Philippians 4:8). VT

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