Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

The Proverbial Modern Media

August 22nd, 2014 by G.

No one is a fan of the modern mass media. Our good friend Bruce Charlton in particular has been unsparing in exposing their defects. Interestingly, I heard a passage in Proverbs today that prefigures five mass media ills.

The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.

A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident.

Proverbs 14:15-16

https://www.lds.org/scriptures/ot/prov/14.15-16?lang=eng#14

The mass media are foolish. They have to be simple, sense 1, in that they have to have easy-to-digest uncomplicated narratives. But since the world doesn’t come packaged like that, their narratives are simple, sense 2, in that they are foolish.

The mass media are imprudent. Their aim is chatter, so they are divorced from real world considerations and from the wisdom and judgment that only experience can teach. They are callow.

They do not fear and depart from evil. Instead, they seek it out for sensation and thrills.

They inspire spurious trust. The apparently faceless, objective format lures you into accepting it.

They are aimed to cause rage and reaction, not reflection.

I believe Proverbs hit so many nails on the head because the mass media is simply a reification of gossip. Everything I just said about the mass media applies to gossip. Even the point about spurious trust because of the faceless, impersonal quality. While gossip is spread person to person, there is always a sense that the person is just the vehicle for something that exists apart from him.

Update:

There is more from Iron Age herdsmen on the modern mass media.

Proverbs 17:5
he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.

Proverbs 18:8
The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.

Comments (4)
Filed under: Deseret Review | No Tag
No Tag
August 22nd, 2014 10:48:35
4 comments

Bruce Charlton
August 23, 2014

@G “They inspire spurious trust. The apparently faceless, objective format lures you into accepting it.”

This is very striking. The objective mode of impersonal address is learned by journalists and very deliberately adopted – as and when desired – with rhetorical intent.

This type of speech implies a community, the mass nature of the media implies a large community – and this is intimidating to each of us as individuals.

It is psychologically very difficult to resist this ‘move’ without retreating into a rather hysterical-sounding individualistic self-assertion and a consequent feeling of isolation.

And the individuals (eg journalists) who communicate this way are themselves absorbed in the process, and immune to counter attack (probably because they are replaceable, disposable cogs) – so the process is one-way; and it eats-up and destroys the mass media professionals who implement it just as much as it destroys the mass of people who journalists eat-up and destroy.


Bookslinger
August 24, 2014

Most of the major media news anchors have that condescending “you’re stupid if you don’t believe me and see things as I see them.” I’m thinking of Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, and even going back to Walter Cronkite.

Cronkite did it effortlessly, or at least apppeared to, but Rather was awkward in his affectation, or at least in his appearance of affectation. Rather came across as supremely arrogant, condescending, and as a poor actor.

There is a narrator for the PBS Frontline series who has a similar over-confident voice, as if the narration is pure objective fact as opposed to analysis and selective presentation and slant.

I’m not sure exactly what to call it. I don’t think it is correctly or completely described as rhetoric or demagoguery. Maybe stage presence, delivery, tone of voice, etc.


Vader
August 25, 2014

“Sophistry” works.


G.
August 25, 2014

More from Iron Age herdsmen on the modern mass media:

Proverbs 17:5
he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.

Proverbs 18:8
The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.

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