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No Anathemas for the Media

But Discernment Is Crucial, Says Communicator

MEXICO CITY, JAN. 15, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Are you as oblivious as Humpty Dumpty when it comes to the media, naively considering yourself a critical thinker when in actuality, you meekly swallow the preaching of today’s opinion-makers?

This was the question posed by Dr. González Gaitano, dean of the faculty of institutional communication of Rome’s Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, in an address he gave today at the 6th World Meeting of Families. The world meeting, under way through Sunday in Mexico City, has gathered some 10,000 participants, including today Mexico’s First Lady, Margarita Zavala.

In his address about the need for discernment in the use of media, González Gaitano developed what he calls the “whole enchilada” of the media, formed by technology, its content and culture.

He reflected on how media’s progress through the centuries has generated both a cultural gain and loss.

“For example,” he said, “the printing press expanded reading to all social groups and made universal compulsory education possible, but this in turn overshadowed oral culture with its enormous riches. Television changed the way of imagining, learning and reasoning in the audiovisual generation, as the Internet is changing media consumption habits and the mental circuitry of the digital generation.”

Distorted

Subsequently, González Gaitano went deeper into the content to which children and young people are exposed through the media, which he called an educational challenge for the family.

Violent content promotes violent actions, he said, citing numerous studies. “The same is true for TV programs with sexual content,” the pontifical university dean affirmed.

What is worrisome is not limited to what is shown but “how it is presented,” he said, noting a study that showed 80% of adolescent programming included sexual content.

The media’s presentation of reality, González Gaitano suggested, is like a set of crazy mirrors in front of a deranged society. He explained that this phenomenon leads to cognitive and psychological social effects.

Syndromes

He first described the Jabberwocky Syndrome. “The media gives us a fragmented or partial vision that is often contradictory and always a kaleidoscopic vision of the world and of man.” This, he said, causes cultural uprooting with regard to moral reasoning and behavior.

Instead, the professor invited the media to present “in such a way that what is good ‘seems’ good and what is bad ‘seems’ bad” without creating confusion in the moral realm.

González Gaitano also commented on the Humpty Dumpty Syndrome, or the generation of the functionally illiterate. Like Humpty Dumpty, the egg who was oblivious to his fragility, people are impoverished in their capacity to grasp reality due to the effects of media. At the same time, there is the phenomenon of “disinformation.” In the end, there is an overwhelming lack of criteria for processing information, he said.

The professor continued to explain how the creation of public opinion has become the responsibility of so-called opinion makers who “impart from the pulpits of their newspaper columns or radio/television talk shows a new creed that public opinion absorbs meekly while still thinking they are critical.”

The expert then wondered if the media could bring us a happy world. He answered with a phrase of Einstein: “The problem is not the atomic bomb, the problem is the heart of man.”

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