Doce me faces voluntarem tuam quia Deus meus es tu

Tuesday, September 28, 2004
On Monday, Al Mohler posted Part One of the two-part series on Christians and the Media. (The link is found here.) Both parts of the series are must-reads in light of the recent CBS scandal. Dr. Mohler is perhaps the sharpest individual in the evangelical world, and his column is always pertinent.

Mohler lists five principles in this post. I will list each point and then offer my own thoughts.

Principle One: In a fallen world, everyone is biased

True enough. Everyone has a bias, whether Christian or agnostic, conservative or liberal. I think the goal here is to get the media to either be as unbiased as possible, or openly admit their biases. Quite frankly, I don't mind a biased perspective, so long as it doesn't pretend to be otherwise objective.

Principle Two: News reports are heavily filtered--and the filters matter.

Below this heading, Mohler remarks: "These filters are extremely significant, and the news reports we receive are but a fraction of what could be published and presented. Someone is making those decisions, and the worldview of those decision-makers is of the utmost importance." (emphasis is mine) Exactly how much of a fraction? Mohler is correct is stressing news is filtered, but to what degree? I don't think that question is easily answered. I'm willing to believe, as Boortz and Rush have said, that the current media filter is a template stating that bad news for America is good news for John Kerry and good news for America is good news for GWB. To some extent, I wonder if Mohler is turning political bias into worldview.

Principle Three: The media are driven by commercial interests.
True point. However, I don't think there was a commercial interest involved in the CBS story. I suspect there was a heavy political bias, but I don't think Dan Rather or Don Hewitt had any money riding on the story. The commercial interests are Charlie Gibson interview Pete Rose or Bill O'Reilly sitting down with President Bush. What Mohler doesn't mention is that disgruntled viewers - Christian or otherwise - have the power to change media by changing the channel. CBS is feeling the pinch now as angry viewers turn off Dan Rather. Fox News whips CNN for the same reason. Christians often complain about Hollywood, and usually (though not always) with good reason. Yet movies make money hand over fist, and it's not just the heathen among us who buy the tickets. Vote with your wallet, and change will come.

Principle Four: The media elite is demographically and ideologically removed from the world inhabited by most Americans

Now things get interesting. Mohler is spot on here, and this point can't be stressed enough. The media elite simply don't live in the real world. Tom Brokaw may have once resided in the vast South Dakota farmland, but he doesn't hold those values anymore. Howell Raines may have graduated from the University of Alabama, but his outlook on the world is a far cry from most Alabamians. Consider the furor over Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. It was obvious that most in the major media didn't understand Christianity. It wasn't so much that they were antagonistic; they were simply ignorant. The worldview of the media is vastly different from most of America, particularly the evangelical church. Where Mohler seems to drop the ball - and I'll deal further with this point in part two - is that he does not encourage Christian involvement in the media. There is much to be said on the matter of response, but nothing about making an inward change. Mohler speaks of the secular, humanist worldview of the media, but says nothing about raising Christian children to one day serve as honest, ethical and (as much as is possible) unbiased anchors, reporters and editors. This is where true change will come; decent journalists with a strong Christian worldview committed to the truth. I won't go so far as to say that this is the only way to change the media, but I do believe that committed Christians - committed to both God and trade - can have a positive impact for both media and consumer.

Principle Five: Headlines often lie and language often misleads.

This point is spot on. It doesn't take long to find headlines that are misleading and confusing. Words like "insurgents" replace "terrorists" and pro-life activists are now "anti-abortion." The MSM is great at playing semantic gymnastics and we must be cautious in our digestion of such terminology. At the same time, we must guard against cynicism. The media is large in this country, and we should be suspicous. We must also realize that we eventually want the media to work. No one is served when we lose our central forms of communication. We need objective standards, and we must work to correct the standards that have gone amiss.

Back with my response to part two later...
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