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Posts Tagged ‘Media’

A friend was telling me about a book the other day.  She said that in the first page not only had the author stated his thesis; he had also persuaded her of its truth.  The following hundred fifty pages were spent reiterating the point and adding evidence with which to convict the audience of the need for the final third of his book, advice for applying the concept.  My friend has always been more interested in writing that was more practical than philosophical, and essentially agreed with the premise of this book before she began to read it.  So she sloughed through the repetitive, unnecessary chapters getting quite bored and wondering if the book was worth her time. 

And today, while I pondered her conversational book review, I realized something.  When I read, I cannot wait to share what I have learned with someone else.  I want to discuss the statements, to criticize them or exult in them, to take every piece of information from the book and draw conclusions from it.  I am rather bored by a book that is a list of how-to steps, because inevitably my situation is omitted, and I chafe under the restrictions of specifics.  As a little girl playing with legos, I always altered the instructions that came with the little car kits.  During a lecture, I much prefer taking my own notes to filling in blanks.  When I read, I am not merely receiving what the author intended; I am springboarding from there to further conclusions, adding the information to everything else I know and experience, in order to richly apply the new ideas. 

Not only am I blending each new piece of media with the others of my experience; I am contributing to the community knowledge and awareness.  Were I to read the book my friend was describing, I would not only be gaining information useful for my life, but also things that I could transfer to my friends, some of whom might benefit from all those tedious persuasion points.  I could write about the subject here (except I already have, when I read reviews of the same book by other bloggers – sharing their knowledge with their community).  Think about reviews and quotes, the work of one man in reading an entire volume in order to bring you a concise summary and sample. 

Have you an idea of the impact on your world when you read a book or watch a movie or listen to a song – or even have an experience?  We are, when living in community, all something like the feared and almost unstoppable Borg of Star Trek invention.  Our understanding is assimilated into a collective.  Except in our case, instead of our brains being hacked and joined to an impersonal super-computer, we are a collective by reason of our relationships: our compassion for others, and wisdom in choosing when to share and what.  Communication is key. 

Imagine a person who was reading, thinking, watching, and living – but who never communicated any of what he learned.  Though his experiences would shape him and his decisions and so impact the people around him, how much more could they all benefit if he was using his time not selfishly, but for what it could offer neighbors, family, and friends?  What I do not have time to read, watch, or do might be in the realm of the experiences of my acquaintance, who could give me the relevant parts or the most interesting parts. 

Worse than someone who will not communicate is a passive member of the community.  All he does is absorb media, blinking at a screen, fiddling with a video game, settling for mediocrity in all of his pursuits, never aspiring to innovation or improvement.  Such a person is not contributing to the community, is wasting his potential, while benefiting like a parasite from the efforts of others.  Even if he is a hermit, excluding himself from the community, by residing in the vicinity of communities (even in a macro situation like the large geography of a state or country) he will be the recipient of at least a few good things brought about by the selfless enterprise of others.  A country is strong when the people are united.  It will be profitable, creative, defensive, and resilient. 

So, too, is a church that is united.  God did not place His children as individual hermits to meditate on Him and reach full potential of godliness, testimony, or understanding.  He placed us as a people, in an organism called the church, made up of many members that the world may see our love in community, proclaiming not that God is near them, nor that God is in them, but that God is truly among them.  It is almost redundant to say that church is community.  But it is counterintuitive to today’s citizen.  He is taught to think of church as an institution, a collection of programs and “services,” which the religious attend and in which they ritually participate. 

The Bible teaches that the people redeemed by Christ’s grace are to walk in the Spirit, to live by faith, praying without ceasing.  We are saved individually, each bearing God’s image, each a man for whom Jesus gave His Life.  But that salvation and faith and Spirit pours into the collective when the “members” gather.  Then that which a person has read, learned, or experienced should be brought forward and discussed: questioned, projected, contrasted, added to the knowledge and circumstances of others, and then applied.  What esteem we should have for those with whom we fellowship, embracing their words whether encouraging or correcting, for we are all benefiting from the voice of God on many ears! 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Chronology of the Old Testament, by Dr. Floyd Nolen Jones, is a history of the ancient world relying primarily on the most complete, detailed, consistent, and verifiable text known to man, the record of the Hebrew peoples as found in their Scriptures.  Beginning with a commitment to the sufficiency and perfect reliability of the Old Testament, the chonologer establishes a timeline of history comparable to Ussher’s famous work. 

The first section establishes periods of history whose lengths are defined by specific verses in the Old Testament, including the genealogies leading up to the flood, and from the flood to Abraham; the duration of Israel’s sojourn in Egypt; the period of the Judges; and then the dates of the kings of Judah and Israel.  This last comprises the majority of the work, as Dr. Jones treats the various accounts of the kings’ ascensions, reigns, ages, and associations with each other particularly as found in the books of Kings and Chronicles.  He refutes the compromise position of Dr. Thiele, whose dates for that era have been considered standard in conservative evangelical study. 

To close the principal manuscript, a study is done of the kings of Assyria, Babylon, and Media-Persia particularly as they compare to the 70 weeks prophecy of Daniel 9, predicting the exact year at which Messiah was to be expected.  I was especially interested in the identification of the kings Darius, Ahasuerus, and Artaxerxes (of Ezra-Nehemiah). 

Though necessarily long, The Chronology of the Old Testament is one of the smoothest narratives of history that I have ever read.  Showing care, comprehensive understanding, and a desire to communicate to an audience ranging from the novice to the studied skeptic, each technique of chronology and every theory of dates and history is presented in a way that is easy to understand and, from the perspective of this novice, unquestionable.  Along the way like an enthusiastic tour guide the author revealed the little discoveries he had made, unsuspecting, and the significance we miss when we do not appreciate the precise chronology and its implications.  For example, we learn that Jonathan son of Saul was actually decades older than David, yet they were dear friends. 

Dr. Jones is honest about the limitations of his science, confident in His God (who preserved the record for us), and firm in his stand against giving historical precedence to the Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian, or Greek histories since, even from a secular viewpoint, they are less complete, immediate, obvious, and consistent than the Hebrew Bible.  They are acknowledged, however, as useful tools in corroborating the testimony of the Scripture and of placing the internal timeline of the Bible into its place in our modern calendar system.  Some space is given to discrediting the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament proceeding from Alexandria and containing multiple errors and contradictions.  Also discussed are worldviews, and the King James translation of the Bible into English.  The author is avidly loyal to this translation, and occasionally vehement in his criticism of those whose opinion differs. 

A CD-ROM is included with the book containing most of the charts and timelines discussed (the rest of the charts are alongside the narrative). 

The Chronology of the Old Testament is an impressive, helpful book that I would even consider employing as a history book for homeschool children.  I enjoyed the book, learned things, and was corrected in some points which I had believed.  (One point that comes to mind is the arrival of the magi to visit Jesus.  Formerly I had been convinced that they arrived months or even years after Jesus’ birth, while the family was residing in Bethlehem.  However, the account of Jesus’ presentation at the temple in Luke precludes this possibility.)  The detailed harmony of the various Old Testament books was brought forth in a broad way I had never before envisioned.  My only concerns are these: the strength of his personal criticisms in some places for weakness in understanding or imagination (resulting, I grant, in slighting the authority and accuracy of the Bible); and the incomplete understanding that remains about the events and timeline of Esther.  Without reservation, however, I would recommend this book.  

Chronology of the Old Testament
To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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The Andy Griffith Show is one of my least favorite classic television series.  There are two main reasons for this.  The first is that all of the adults and trusted authority figures are habitual liars.  They lie to make friends feel good, and they lie to protect themselves, and they lie to patronize children.  Sometimes the lie works out, and other times they get caught, but it is always “cute” and “funny.”  No one is ever shown considering the moral implications of lying.  This despite frequent references to God and church, as the quaint trappings of small town life demand. 

 

My second reason is that there are no marriages in the show.  The two main characters are in stagnate relationships with women who seem no more interested in permanent commitment and domesticity than they are.  The fashionable, fun loving gals must simply enjoy dating, and it is as casual and undirected a relationship as ever there was.  Aunt Bee is a spinster who helps her widowed nephew to raise his orphaned son.  No where is there a marriage really demonstrated for the audience or for the children.  I can recall only one married couple from the show, and that is the town drunk and his wife.  Great example. 

 

For such a long-running, highly-esteemed show, the lack of moral foundation is sad.  However, the themes, stereotypes, and worldview portrayed by Andy and his friends is representative of those seeds of corruption that blossomed in the decades to come, leaving us today with a society in which family and marriage are perverted if not meaningless, and in which the truth is grossly undervalued, unsought, and even betrayed.  Astounding percentages of students admit to lying.  A large minority of births are out of wedlock.  Divorce is rampant, as is unmarried cohabitation.  Do we want to promote this in our entertainment?  Are we so sunk in deception that we look back on the Andy Griffith era as a wholesome, family-values past? 

 

Is there any hope, any shining example of television today that portrays the truth and biblical values? 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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In recent years outcry has been growing against the biased mainstream media.  This generally encompasses newspapers, broadcast television, and cable news channels, who have been shown to favor a political candidate in their reporting over his opponent, or to spin coverage of wars and international relations.  We should not be surprised at how easy it is to sway an audience.  The tone of an article, inclusion or omission of certain facts, the way questions are asked to acquire facts, and even the use or frequency of positive or negative buzz words all contribute to manipulating an audience.  And we must admit that it is impossible to prevent bias from appearing in our media.  Some gross abuses may be avoidable; news coverage should not be fabricating stories, and ought to check that they have reliable sources.  What bothers most people is the apparent monopoly in the media by one side of American culture, namely, the more liberal side. 

 

This is not a new phenomenon.  During the Revolutionary War underground printing presses published pamphlets, propaganda for the masses who were otherwise uninformed about the masses of people discontented with British oppression.  Media has been used in such ways, then, for centuries.  100 years ago the newspaper moguls such large and influential cities as New York and Chicago, far from being true competitors, met in the legendary smoke-filled rooms to agree on policies to support, on news to cover, that would best protect their power and influence.  For my purposes today I cannot describe how these men gained their power.  Yet they had it, and motive to keep their power. 

 

But how could their power be threatened?  One threat that goes deeper than we may at first imagine is the possibility of real competition.  Suppose an enterprising young reporter had started his own printers, and published his own version of the news.  More than likely he would have started small.  Such a man could have made certain news available that was not to be found in any other papers.  And so he could gain an audience.  There is obvious economic pressure on the established media to maintain their audience.  The nature of free markets dictates that larger corporations can afford to have lower prices.  They have the advantage of an incumbent, brand recognition and loyalty already strong among their patrons.  With more reporters, they can cover more territory, and produce more writing.  And, of course, they have the ear of the people, and can tell them what they will about their opponent’s or the facts the other news sources report. 

 

This competitive atmosphere is a familiar fixture in the market.  And media giants have the advantage in every respect.  Why would they be worried?  Power.  The more this different voice gains the respect of the people, the more power is taken from the others.  The new voice creates few new readers, garnering the majority of its business by persuading the subscribers to the other papers to transfer their interest and attention.  There are only so many news consumers to go around.  And if readership falls below a certain level, the influence of that paper is strikingly less.  In a democratic society, the majority rules.  If one news source ceases to control the majority, they are in danger of losing everything. 

 

Risk goes beyond that simple math.  The more media is divided, and choice is required of the consumer, the less power is wielded by the media as a whole.  Think of a large room.  If one strong voice is projecting its speech in an otherwise silent room, the people will hear him.  They are more likely to believe him.  Many voices in chorus produce the same effect.  If the whole room erupts in conversation, not only will you scarcely be able to hear the person right next to you; you will not be able to hear the one large voice, either.  You will have to make a choice.  Who do you wish to hear?  The friend next to you, or the intelligent man across the aisle?  The woman discussing a topic of interest, or the man with the microphone?  Are you going to heed the voice on the stage or the voice by the door?  How do you know if these people are even telling the truth?  Suddenly no one has power to manipulate you, and once more you are an individual with private responsibility. 

 

Today we have just such a room full of voices.  The traditional media is losing large portions of its audience.  Technology has made it possible for thousands of people to broadcast their thoughts and information.  Newspapers proliferate.  Old radio companies moved into television and cable.  Conservative talk radio now has a strong following of people dissatisfied or bored with the traditional “mainstream” media.  News magazines are published weekly.  Millions have access to the internet, with free host services for blogs that can be searched and linked. 

 

Acquiring information on which to report is a much broader road today.  Rather than waiting for the communication carried by a single ship, months delayed, as was nearly the case during the Revolutionary War, we now have satellites and long distance telephones, cell phones, email, airmail, etc.  If I were to witness a robbery, a friend in another state could know of it in minutes.  Google and similar search engines have made it possible to search for the information you wish to share, eliminating part of the need to filter the competing voices on the overwhelmingly large and loud media stage. 

 

Many are taking advantage of this new world of information.  Some who have escaped the education system able to think for themselves have been creating these competing voices and sustaining them for decades until we reached this point.  They investigate sources and find them reliable or not.  Combining information offered by various outlets, an individual can draw his own conclusions and just as easily share them with others.  Nevertheless, the majority of people remain addicted to the single voice.  Unpracticed in discernment and logic, many people embark on an increasingly difficult course of clinging to the familiar one voice.  It won’t last long.  Market forces are at work.  A house divided against itself will fall. 

 

I’m not saying that radio will cease to exist, or that TV will go out of business, or even that the blog and web news fads will blow over.  The influence is what is crashing in on itself.  There is a possibility that it won’t.  More on that in a moment.  If it does, however, there seem to be two choices: either the people who don’t want to choose will wake up and think for themselves anyway, or a new power will come in and control them.  Humanity craves leadership.  It has found leadership without media in the past, and can persevere in its quest once again in a world where media is weak. 

 

Recall those newspaper editors in that room, drinking and smoking cigars.  They don’t want to lose their power.  They don’t want the media empire to fall.  These men know that strong competition, especially when faced on more than one front, reduces their power and eventually destroys it for all of them.  What do they do? 

 

The only chance of survival for the entrenched media is to fight back so hard that opposition is silenced.  In this global technological age, I’m not sure that is possible.  China is finding censorship a difficult problem to conquer.  News businesses may strong arm their competition out of existence through economic competition, or they could if the internet weren’t essentially free.  They can resort to sabotage, eliminating their foes with violence and vandalism and threats.  Some of these new voices might be enticed into joining the club, the chorus.  Or they can utilize their still-strong voices to change the laws.  Laws are changed by wealthy special-interest groups all the time, and markets are controlled by big business using little laws to regulate small business into insignificance.  So with media. 

 

Do not doubt it: the powerful in the media have already begun to work.  Using the government, members of which they helped to their election (and can slander out of power just as easily), they have begun to censor the freedom of speech. 

 

         Broadcast TV, beginning this January, will be a thing of the past in January.  Everything will be published in High Definition, and the government will take control of the airwaves for their own uses. 

         Cable and Satellite TV, though offering many stations, are ultimately controlled by a select few established companies. 

         In the 70’s and 80’s there was a law in effect endearingly called the “Fairness Doctrine,” requiring that radio stations offer all sides of an issue in their programming.  This is both impossible and economically suicidal, as there is not an equal audience for all opinions.  If reinstated, which the upcoming administration has considered, talk radio would be gone.  (It is the nature of laws that they are not always evenly enforced.  Though there may be a law against protesting on public property, the police and district attorneys decide who will be held accountable for violations.  Therefore though the “fairness doctrine” may apply to all radio stations or even other media, enforcement can be targeted at specific stations or genres.) 

 

I don’t know of any plans to censor the printed press or the internet, but watch for it.  You will either see increased censorship or the demise of media as a superpower. 

 

Doesn’t the Constitution guarantee free speech?  Of course!  But how is the government to be held accountable for trespass of the Constitution?  How will you even know they have done so if no one tells you?  Does the government own the airwaves?  Broadcast equipment?  Your TV or radio?  In principle, they don’t.  In practice, they absolutely do.  And if you’re like me, you’re starting to think you’ve heard of other countries where there was one national media, publishing at the will of the government.  Independent media entrepreneurs are not the only ones in history who have noticed that a single voice signifies singular power. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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This weekend I picked up Ann Coulter’s book, Treason.  The first several chapters describe with multitudinous source notes the true history of the “Red Scare” in the fifties and what really happened when Senator McCarthy was in congress.  In her typical sarcasm, Ann emphasizes that the alleged persecution inflicted on suspected (and actual) Communists and Communist spies in the Cold War was nominal, especially when contrasted with two extremes: the oppression of the people under actual Communist rule in the USSR at the time; and the normal shunning and ridicule of conservatives today who are not potentially feeding national secrets to our enemies. 
 
This is an interesting contrast to the pet project of George Clooney, Good Night and Good Luck, about Edward R. Murrow, one of the first responsible for slanting the public’s view of Senator McCarthy.  My brother’s community college professor recommended the movie to him, and so after the semester was over, Michael picked it up at the library and we spent the most boring hour of the month watching a whispering, black and white, dull, impersonal movie semi-documenting the press’ coverage of McCarthy, especially when he questioned Annie Lee Moss, the black Communist washerwoman who worked in the code room at the Pentagon.  I think they even mixed actual press footage into the movie.  (By the way, the Academy nominated this film for Best Picture, which is one of the most blatant evidences for their political agenda or at least favoritism, since it in no way compares to excellent classic films sharing that distinction.) 
 
While Clooney wanted to do a movie refreshing the image of McCarthy as a man irrationally bent on censorship and discrimination, I argue the movie accomplished at least two opposite aims:  First of all, the sheer boredom of the movie supposed to show the tragic suffering of those the Republicans arbitrarily decided to pick on, highlights how insignificant the hardships of Communist spies and sympathizers were; it didn’t even make a good movie.  Secondly, I believe the movie, which focuses much more on the behind-the-scenes at the television station, generally portrays an accurate picture of the actual ambition and worldview of those who spun the myths about McCarthy in the first place.  To know the real story the press was covering, and see how they portrayed the facts, is a much more entertaining display of liberal media at work.  The moral of the movie to me is not: “See, those Republicans are mean!” but rather, “See, those liberals are miles from the facts again!” 
 
Emboldened, however, by their success at distorting the history of McCarthy-“ism”, the liberals continue in their campaign to rewrite history as it happens.  They use it in elections (usually between the casting of votes and the inaugurations, and then casually referenced as common knowledge attacking the legitimacy of whoever holds office that they don’t like), in propaganda about our enemies and defense, about economics, nature, and very frequently in the best-selling books they write after they leave office.  From the fifties they learned Hitler’s policy of the thirties: if you tell a lie long enough and loud enough, the public will believe it.  Let the example of Hollywood’s dramatization of a deceitful press contrasted with the thoroughly researched and footnoted book about history be a lesson for today. 
 
To God be all glory. 

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In the vein of Debate about Fantasy Literature, I’ve been continuing my thoughts recently.

1. I’m part of a small group for high school girls at my church that is just starting. No, I’m not in high school. We’re working on planning the format and lessons (along with getting people to come, finding a place to meet, etc.). I had the idea that we could watch an episode of Joan of Arcadia each week and then talk about it. Not only does Joan bring up theological questions and experiences; she is popular media’s version of a modern teenager. She and her friends and family have strengths, weaknesses, triumphs and struggles that I can relate to, let alone other high school girls.

Thing is, Joan of Arcadia’s theology is very off. And there is some content that is lacking virtue. There’s that verse in Philippians 4. Yet the show could be iron against which to sharpen our own worldviews. We could take their theology (similar to that offered by peers, neighbors, clerks, teachers, and obviously TV) and look at the Bible’s take on it. The benefits would be preparation for apologetics; and critical thinking whenever we’re consuming media.

2. Yesterday I saw August Rush for the second time. I like the music. And Keri Russell is beautiful. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers has a wonderful accent. Freddie Highmore is an excellent young actor. The ending is satisfying. The entire movie is poetic and like a fairy tale. But there is some bad language, and the whole story revolves around the fact that a single woman lost contact with her child as an infant and is now looking for him. Clearly we can object to that, and refuse to emulate it. On the other hand, the consequences of giving yourself away without commitment are pretty well laid out. I thought the movie was a pretty good argument for abstinence until marriage.

3. Tylerray at Elect Exiles posted an analysis of the movie (which I have not and will not see), There Will be Blood. I want to just encourage you, if you are going to consume media, to be interactive. Ask questions about it. Hold it to the light of God’s Word. To quote Tyler: If we passively consume media, we actively assume it.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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There’s nothing like gift cards for the shopaholic on a budget. Most recently I finished off a Barnes and Noble gift card by buying a book of Jane Austen’s early writings, Love and Freindship (sic). They say not to judge a book by its cover, but I buy old books because of their covers (and sometimes because of their content). So I am not too ashamed to admit that I chose this edition because it has a bright pink cover with silver engraved lettering, and features a photo of an intriguing stack of letters bound with pink ribbon on the front.

Jane Austen was the daughter of an English minister, and published her books at a time in history when strict morality was beginning to dominate the culture. The world she grew up in was more licentious, especially in their fiction. The contrast between the media culture and the home values in which she was raised likely produced these short exercises in literary skill originally intended for only her family. Jane Austen’s family had no desire to publish the early writings while two of her novels were yet to be published, and when her popularity had grown enough that more was demanded, the family thought it best to protect the virtuous reputation of the unmarried aunt who wrote narrative so effectively defending a high estimation of marital fidelity, for example.
At last in the 21st Century the relations entrusted with these precious papers have allowed them to be viewed and published. The collection I had the delight of reading was to my interpretation a hyperbolic commentary on the novels available for reading when she was a girl. Filled with the most ridiculous excesses, sensibilities, faintings, betrayals, coincidences, and disrespect, Jane Austen looked at these glorifications of wickedness and saw through the gripping fiction and luxurious settings to the message, and through her own parodies emphasized the motives and opinions of popular characters, revealing them to any person in her day with common understanding as outrageous and harmful.
This perception, and perhaps disdain for the original novels defining the romantic genre no doubt shaped the type of story and novel she wanted to write, the intelligent, realistic characters she wanted to share with the world. Without these excursions as a very young lady into the worldview of popular authors, could we have the epic sketches of human nature effectively drawn by Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion?
Jane Austen wrote in pre-Victorian times. Since her death the morality of the Western World has both sharpened (through the Great Revivals) and then declined. At this point in history, when our books, TV, videos, and music are once again filled with perversion and irreverence, Love and Freindship is more relevant than ever. Just as with her great and complete works, Jane Austen has proven that even her young insights are continually relevant. I would hope that all conisseurs of modern media would take a considerate look at Love and Freindship, listening for the disguised warning it gives against the loose behavior promoted in literature and film in her time and again today.
To God be all glory.

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