Media are tainted?
Bishop Adam Lepa
The papal message for this year's World Communications Day should become a practical guide to the world of media, also because media still hide many secrets and unsolved riddles. In his message Benedict XVI reflects on the various ways media influence man. First of all, they are effective tools to propagate all that is good and true. They provide versatile information and facilitate instantaneous and direct communication between people, even when separated by vast distances. Unfortunately, they show signs of being dangerously tainted.
Little has been written about the phenomenon of taint so far. Similar problems of information poisoning or information noise have not been discussed exhaustively. Media are commonly accused of using various forms of lying (camouflage, myth, subtle use of illusion), numerous ways of manipulation, including brainwash and influencing the subconscious.
Benedict XVI explains the ways media are tainted. He does not give a complete list because it is impossible to do that nowadays. He does not even give concrete examples. But his words allow us to have a topical picture of taint in media.
An example of taint is stable tendencies to create a kind of monoculture. Its threat is that it dims creative genius, deflates the subtlety of complex thought and undervalues the specificity of cultural practices and the particularity of religious belief.
Benedict XVI states that the fact that media are tainted leads to various distortions. One of them is that the media industry becomes self-serving or solely profit-driven, and thus losing the sense of accountability to the common good.
Another taint is inaccurate reporting of events and unfair representation of diverse points of view. According to Benedict XVI another frequent way media are tainted is that they do not uphold and support marriage and family, one of the reasons being that these are the foundation to build culture and society. The infection of media is also shown when they impose non-edifying models of human life, which causes damaging effects in bringing up children. And finally, media are tainted when they show false expressions of love, which ridicule the God-given dignity of every human person and undermine family interests. Despite all these things media can positively influence man and this influence should be developed. Community of love, which is being built and whose foundation is unity with Christ, can overcome the negative effects of media, including expressions of taint.
- Recipients of the mass media have numerous and effective means at their disposal. These means will protect them from taint. The Pope names them and presents a list. These include:
- accurate reporting of events, full explanation of matters of public concern and fair representation of diverse points of view must be fostered;
- marriage and family life should be promoted and supported;
- entertainment industries and media should co-operate, satisfying vocation of bringing up young generation;
- media should show young people true images of love. In order to realise these tasks recipients of media must consider three steps:
1. suitable formation, which will protect them against their negative influence in order to avoid their destructive power.
2. active participation in functioning of media, which requires control and recourse to regulatory standards.
3. Dialogue with media and about media. When it is properly used it can make media become resources for building the civilisation of love.
Benedict XVI indirectly answers the question why media are tainted. He also inspires recipients to reflect on the taint and leads them to find a positive solution of this problem.
Therefore, the fact that many media are tainted should not discourage or terrify anyone. One should consider this phenomenon calmly and reach the most suitable conclusions, which are essential to use media, to build culture of the nation and which are important to the community of the Church. Peter of our times encourages us to do so. The day, which is extremely suitable to reflect on this subject, is the Sunday of Social Communications. May the experience of this day yield lasting fruit in our decisions, conversations and arduous efforts so that the media we use every day were free of any taint.