Affirm me, don’t enlighten me.

It’s true. Media, namely news, affirms, it doesn’t necessarily enlighten. You watch the stations that resonate with your views. In fact, I bet most non right-winged college students just watch the current presidential debates so they can play drinking games drinking each time Bachmann talks about her 23 kids.

If you’re French, you don’t want to read about freedom fries, but if you have your American flag waving and your guns on your wall, you may just get a chuckle out of this. I understand that this isn’t good. It may even be more important to educate yourself on the views that don’t resonate with you – but where’s the fun there?

I joke, but in reality, media is at fault here – not people. This is psychological, we can’t help it. The media, on the other hand, can. I must bring it to my group project here since it has been the focus for me. Search for Common Ground does just this – it takes stories that resonate with people and turn it into entertainment.

Why does Search for Common Ground do this? Well many of the same reasons other media sources do it. To increase audience and to make money. It doesn’t create false stories or “trash” tv. Search for Common Ground comes up with stories from real people’s lives of conflict situations solved peacefully and turns it into entertainment.

Instead of kicking the butt of the local gangster for making fun of your Muslim faith, an actor may respond with a witty retort or a meaningful conversation. The love stories are inter-faith or inter-racial, there are gays not accepted in the society. There are friendships between different classes and overbearing parents.

Why do people watch these? Because they resonate. You’re gay, and scared to come out. You’re black and your girlfriend’s white. Your best friend is rich and you aren’t. You like the humor. You think the main actress is hot. It doesn’t matter what you resonate with, you just do.

But Search for Common Ground is different from other media sources , it has different motives. Teach peaceful conflict resolution. Media which affirms, resonates – and this is not what needs to be changed. It is making this affirmation closer to something that can also be enlightening that needs to be worked on.

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4 thoughts on “Affirm me, don’t enlighten me.

  1. Echo says:

    Nice post! I also think media should do more than reaffirming what we already know or resonating with the feelings we already have. It is a psychological thing, how we choose and digest certain news over others based on our personal experiences. Maybe what you are saying is our mainstream media now is designed to get people’s approval, rather than trying to show a different view.
    The good news, the development of technology and social media has made news reporting a less exclusive job. Now besides major media sources, we also can look for independent reporters and citizen journalists.
    But even with all those alternatives, mainstream media does make our mind lazier and less willing to reach for enlightenment I’m afraid. I can’t recall how many times i chose a soap opera over an award winning documentary. It’s just so much easier.

  2. icguatemala says:

    You’re right on that we tend to consume news that affirms our beliefs rather than challenging us to think about things. And I think it’s so easy to say that and not realize that you’re doing that as well. I likely wouldn’t have readily recognized my healthy disdain for certain right-wing dogmas as being unwilling to be challenged; I’d probably call it being principled, as right-wingers would do about their own staunchness of opinion.

    This post (and most of our discussion about framing) made me think about a visit I took to the Newseum; each day out front, they hang that day’s front page from many major newspapers. The day I went, Obama had just announced his plan to get the troops in Iraq home by the holidays. Some papers went with that angle, rejoicing that the conflict is ending. Others (cough cough some Southern papers) spun it as Obama pulling out or surrendering. Same facts, but a completely different mood surrounding them. Very interesting. And actually enlightening, although a bit affirming too…

  3. Christina Howerton says:

    Search for Common Ground is definitely a great example of how media can enlighten, but I think that most media, especially the big news outlets do not enlighten. As you said, they reaffirm. I think that the key way media enlightens as opposed to reaffirming is being participatory. In some aspects, this still allows the audience to bring their preconceived ideas but it is more likely to challenge these ideas because other audience members’ ideas are probably different. Participatory media is probably the most effective at changing the media consumption status quo.

  4. mistertunde says:

    A little more enlightenment would be good. A little more muckracking would be nice too – I feel like investigative journalism needs a jolt. Perhaps journalists are becoming a little to dependent on government sources for scoops and thus losing their edge? We talked about that possibility in class. I believe its that dynamic is the cause of much of the information that was floating about during the Iraq War, but I digress…

    I must admit that I am also guilty of consuming media that mostly aligns with my beliefs. I do it because I do not want to be stressed while reading the news. I am prone to harmless outrage when I read things I disagree with (mostly eye rolling and huffing….harmless). Media outlets have to be aware of the bottom line (especially in this economy!) as you mentioned, so I don’t know how things are going to change in the near future.

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