Op-Ed: Mind-Numbing Media Has 3 Deadly Results - This Is a Matter of Survival


It turns out that the late communications scholar Dr. Neil Postman was spot-on: We are entertaining ourselves to death.

Lest you anticipate yet another conservative Op-Ed bashing “the other side,” worry not — and, please, keep reading. I actually think it’s a matter of survival.

Like the rest of our citizenry, we who still hold to the Judaeo-Christian worldview and are not ashamed of the unsurpassed accomplishments and contributions of Western civilization are in the same predicament as our more left-leaning neighbors. We are all being lulled into an apathetic stupor by the ever-increasing amusements around us.

I am less worried about the novocaine-induced mind paralysis of radical leftist socialists and more concerned about constitutional conservatives. For we are as prone to the hypnotic nature of information overload as anyone else. Maybe more so.

From 24-hour news cycles, podcasts ad nauseam and the inevitable cult of conservative media celebrities (it happens whether they crave it or not), our engagement is not less but more. Information-gorging has created a nation of people who suffer not from attention deficit disorder, but attention-fixated sickness.

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And what are the consequences of the mind-numbing syndrome? There are at least three deadly results of media addiction (there are more, but I want to focus on those negative outcomes that leave us vulnerable to attack by the world’s leading dealer in mindless amusements — a serious and opportunistic China).

The first deadly result of fixation on media and amusements is moral degradation.

As we are bombarded with a constant stream of entertainment, we are desensitized to gratuitous violence, sex and substance abuse. We begin to accept these behaviors as normal and no longer see them as wrong. Our children are growing up in a world where the most popular movies and TV shows depict graphic violence and casual sex (I don’t even need to address the other manifestations of our downward cycle of sin). The result is a generation that is increasingly morally bankrupt, with no sense of right and wrong.

The second consequence of information addiction is not only moral degradation, but also mental declination — the tragic erosion of critical thinking.

As we are entertained by an endless stream of media, our ability to think critically is eroded. We no longer question what we hear or read. We accept everything at face value, without any thought or analysis. This makes us vulnerable to manipulation and propaganda.

Finally, amusing ourselves to death, even with likable and sometimes insightful conservative celebrities, produces the sad irony of socio-political idleness.

We are so transfixed by the vicissitudes of our favorite opinion personality or conservative sensation that we no longer gather for righteous (or even just fun) causes. Scholarship has demonstrated that the average American in the 19th century was far more involved than we are in church meetings, political and social groups, civic organizations, and even hobbies and clubs. Moreover, our great-great-grandparents had to tote water from the well to the bathtub and a hundred other chores that are now on mechanical autopilot.

Now, to be clear, I don’t want to revert to outhouses or give up my favorite podcast. However, when I am so enthralled with the palace intrigue of conservative cable news personalities that I fail to exercise the necessary participation to keep our representative government going, then I have a problem (I’m writing because I do have a problem and have an inkling that you might, as well).

How did old Ben Franklin put it? “Well, you have a republic if you can keep it.”

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Our Founders left us a form of government that is as good as our biblical morals, our critical thinking and good judgments, and our involved citizenship. With the shadow of a vicious enemy now looming over the free world, it is time to not only be informed, but involved. Our future as a nation might just depend on it. And that is no game.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

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Michael A. Milton, Ph.D. (University of Wales), is a theologian, pastor, author and educator. He has served as a pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America and as a colonel in the U.S. Army chaplaincy. He has authored over 30 books and has taught at numerous institutions, including Reformed Theological Seminary and Erskine Theological Seminary. He currently serves as the distinguished professor of missions and evangelism at Erskine. Dr. Milton and his wife reside in western North Carolina.