Avoiding Media Brainwashing

I just finished reading an excellent biography of Cato, not Inspector Clouseau’s Cato but Rome’s Marcus Porcius Cato a/k/a Cato the Younger (95 B.C. – 46 B.C.). Cato was known for his integrity in a time of intense political corruption and polarization in Rome that ultimately led to the fall of the Roman Republic when Caesar declared himself dictator for life in 44 B.C..

Cato stood against both political parties, the populares (Democrats) and the optimates (Republicans), in favor of the Republic and doing what was right. As a result, Cato was highly respected, and sometimes also despised, by both sides. That is the price of speaking the truth. Even the 1st century Christians held Cato up as an example of integrity in the midst of corruption.

The current U.S. political climate bears similarities to the Rome of Cato’s time. Political opponents today are demonized. There is no rational discussion by which consensus is reached. There is no middle ground. The reason for the polarization is that people are being brainwashed by the media. But before my friends on the right say, “Amen,” read on, because for polarization to occur there must be two poles, not one.

In totalitarian regimes, brainwashing is accomplished through a state-run media that presents only one side of the political argument. In the U.S., freedom of speech allows the media the choice of presenting a liberal, conservative, or neutral point of view. And as Americans we have the freedom to choose which we want to watch. The problem is that the media has figured out that people prefer to hear what they already believe. Fox learned this lesson early on, and as a result became the most watched cable news network. Others, like MSNBC on the left, have followed.

When there were only three major networks, all claiming to be unbiased, we simply chose which news anchor we preferred. Now, we choose which point of view we prefer, and that is where things get dangerous because in so doing we are choosing to be brainwashed. We hear only what we already believe, which is constantly reinforced and never challenged while those who believe differently are demonized by our favorite pundits.

There is no doubt the media in the United States is biased. Its middle leans to the left, but the answer to media bias is not the choice of being brainwashed by the right or the left; the answer is not the echo chamber. The answer to media bias is like the answers to most cultural problems: self government.

The answer is to do the hard thing, which is usually the right thing, and to turn off Fox News or MSNBC, or if you are going to watch one, balance it out with the other. Or better, watch (or read) across the spectrum of opinions. You don’t have to always agree with what you hear, but by listening you will be forced to make a choice, which makes it more likely the Bible or the Holy Spirit or Reason (rather than Rachel Maddow or Tucker Carlson) plays a part in that choice, and making a choice is better than being brainwashed.

Kingdom citizens should be wise enough to not let themselves be brainwashed by the media, left or right. The more they free themselves from the media brainwashing the more they will be seen as arbitrators with integrity for Truth, just as the Romans viewed Cato. Or we can just continue to act like the pagan Romans. GS

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