The News Media, Jerry Sandusky, and Illusion

During my undergraduate years, I took a class at American University called “News Media and Foreign Policy.” Essentially, the class focused on the effect that the news media has in shaping foreign policy.

Our primary textbook, entitled, News: The Politics of Illusion, by W. Lance Bennett, defines “political news” as information that “newsmakers (politicians and other political actors) promote as timely, important, or interesting[,] from which news organizations select, narrate, and package for transmission (via communication technologies) to people who consume it at a given time in history” (Bennett, 11).

Doris Graber, in “Adapting Political News to the Needs of Twenty-First Century Americans,” says that “news is not just any information, or even the most important information about the world; rather, the news tends to contain information that is timely, often sensational (scandals, violence, and human drama frequently dominate the news) and familiar (stories often drawing on familiar people or life experiences that give even distant events a close-to-home feeling)” (Bennett, 11).

Bennett’s assertion throughout his book is that politics and foreign policy do not happen in a vacuum. They are shaped by external forces, one of which is the news media. He argues that the news media plays a large role in how the United States interacts with the world and does not want the public to know how large its influence really is. They want the public to think they are merely reporting the facts without bias, rather than shaping the news and the audience’s perceptions of, and reactions to, the news as it occurs. Thus, the name of the book.

Now, what does this information have to do with Jerry Sandusky? Well, I’d like to argue that in the same way that the news media shapes U.S. national policy, media also shapes what we think about our own hearts. I also want to argue again that the mere volume of sensational articles that we see about evil, violence, and scandal make us immune to the sin in our own lives.

Continue reading

Advertisements

The Secret Service, Scandal, and Grace

I read several articles this week that caused my heart to break. The news has been full of articles about the Secret Service scandal in Columbia and being the political nerd that I am, I’ve read quite a few. None of them affected me as much as these two:

Wife of Secret Service Agent Stands By Her Man

Name of the Secret Service’s Infamously Cheap Agent Revealed

It’s easy to be shocked and disgusted by the news that men visit prostitutes. It’s easy for us to be aghast at the news that government officials engage in these acts while representing the United States of America abroad. It’s not a difficult task to condemn them for their indiscretions, the shame they’ve brought on their esteemed agency, and the potential endangerment of our President.

In our judgment, it’s also easy to forget that these men have wives and families and lives. They’re husbands, fathers, brothers, and friends. It’s easy to forget that some of them (and according to media reports, at least one) are likely fellow followers of Christ. It’s easy to forget that in many ways we are just like them. It’s easy to forget that we are just as capable of such sin. It’s easy to throw the first stone. It’s easy to forget the way that life breaks down when we sin against one another. It’s easy to forget how much our sin affects the people that we have promised to cherish.

Continue reading