Many times before, it has been said that, “History is written by the winners.” There is truth to that statement, as long as it is not overexaggerated to make the past epistemically unknowable. But what should concern us more than misinformation in history textbooks from past winners is what is being put before our eyes and into the mouths of our neighbors from the current winners today, who have gained control over our cultural institutions, entertainment, and news media.
This really hit home for me about a month ago. I received a notification on my phone from my news app that read, “US Capitol Police: Car ‘rammed’ 2 officers, killing one; driver dead.” For the next couple of hours my phone was buzzing with notifications about the incident from the various news sources I follow. Social media was ablaze with people lamenting “White Supremacy” and the “Christian Nationalism” that must be behind this attack, connecting it to the January 6th riots. I was bracing myself for more weeks on end of continual news coverage and analysis on America’s ills related to systematic racism. And then, nothing. Silence from all the mainstream media sources. Turns out that the driver in this attack was not a White Supremacist or Christian Nationalist, but instead was a black male who seemed to have an affinity for Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.
This incident was of course not anything new; impartiality of news coverage is a myth that some may claim to strive for but is unattainable. Everyone has a perspective and a bias, even political “Centrism” is a motivated point of view due to how arbitrary and culturally dependent our political compasses are. Every single news media source, even if they are fair on the facts themselves, pick and choose which stories to cover. But what hit me for the first time following this incident was just how dangerous this can be for a society, depending on the agenda of the media.
Disproportionate news coverage can lead to a disproportionate view of reality.
Unfortunately, the ability of mainstream media sources to prioritize news coverage to fit their political or cultural agenda is highly effective in the social sphere. This is most easily demonstrated with the topics of Police Brutality and Covid-19. When it comes to Covid-19 I am not a denier, nor am I one to brush off the seriousness of the disease. Almost 600 thousand Americans dead, while a small percentage overall, is still a lot of death that should be mourned. However, there have been many critics of the mainstream media who have pointed out the exaggerated nature of their constant news coverage and their overt fear mongering leading to a distorted view of the nature of the pandemic. And it seems these criticisms ring true with recent data that has come out from a Gallup Study. Almost half of the Democratic responders to a Gallup survey answered that a person who is infected by Covid was 50% likely to be hospitalized. The correct figure for Covid hospitalizations is between 1-5%.
Most of the researchers directly attributed this to disproportionate news coverage of the pandemic with the Washington Examiner pointing the finger directly at American News media, “Ninety one percent of stories by U.S. major media outlets are negative in tone versus fifty four percent for non-U.S. major sources and sixty five percent for scientific journals,” reads the working paper’s abstract. “The negativity of the U.S. major media is notable even in areas with positive scientific developments including school re-openings and vaccine trials. Media negativity is unresponsive to changing trends in new COVID-19 cases or the political leanings of the audience.”
Similarly, American respondents to polls also have a very skewed perspective on the prevalence of police brutality on minority victims. The average number of unarmed black men that are killed by the police is around 20-25 per year. It is important to realize that of these, there are even less that are unjustified due to some situations technically counting as unarmed (such as trying to run the police over with a car). However, public opinion on the phenomenon could hardly be more disconnected from reality. A recent poll conducted by the Skeptic Research institute revealed that 44% of liberals polled answered that between 1000 and 10,000 unarmed black men are killed by police each year.
Truthfully, considering the hundreds of millions of police encounters with civilians, unarmed shootings are exceedingly rare. The reason you know the names of victims such George Floyd and others is because of their rarity and disproportionate media coverage. What fits the agenda of the mainstream media is what gets the undue coverage, and the bigger the news story, the bigger the impact on cultural conversations.
Control the cultural conversations and you can control the direction of the culture.
Cultural change is incremental by nature. While it may seem to be exponentially accelerated over the past decade due to many factors such as social media, the methods fueling the winds of cultural shifts are the same: the spread of new ideas.Good ideas lead to positive social change, and bad ideas lead to negative social change. These ideas are disseminated organically through small things such as everyday conversations between citizens, and on a larger scale, through the cultural institutions. However, when a certain ideological perspective has a monopoly on the cultural institutions and their ideas are not conducive to truth and a biblical worldview, this can have disastrous effects upon a society.
While it may seem like you have an endless supply of various news media outlets to peruse, truthfully 90% of media outlets in the United States are owned by only six companies. Forty years ago, that number was fifty different companies. Going even further back to the independent newspaper era, that number was in the hundreds and thousands. But today six companies control almost all news dissemination in the United States. Each one of them has a bias and an agenda, and the majority are on the progressive side of the aisle. The ability for this few number of interests to control the news, and therefore have an enormous influence on what stories lead the cultural conversations, is extremely dangerous for the free exchange of cultural ideas. While Orwell’s 1984 might paint the government as the biggest threat to truth, the American Capitalistic machine has shown that we do not need government to produce state sponsored propaganda; all we had to do was privatize it.
The other methods of idea dissemination are not less monopolized by progressives but can be just as influential. Hollywood and the entertainment industry’s influence on cultural change and discussions is possibly greater than that ofthe news media. Many of the younger adults and children who are not as engaged in popular news stories as older generations are more likely to be consumed by an entertainment industry that is no less nefarious in its goals. A quick look at the Oscar nominees for best picture show where the loyalties of Hollywood lie, as every single nominee is furthering popular leftist visions of America.
The American Universities’ leftward bent and influence on corrupting young minds has been known for generations. The left long ago took control of academia and we are bearing the fruits of this today with the dangerous ideas of cultural Marxism and critical race theory being promulgated by the universities and then fueled by selective news coverage in the media.
However, probably the scariest and most drastic form of control over social conversations lies in the social media giants. Facebook alone has over 2.7 billion users as of 2020. This has allowed Facebook to be one of the largest sources of news and communication between people not only in the United States, but worldwide. Therefore, it follows that whatever regulations and cancellations that companies like Facebook and Twitter enforce, it will have profound effects upon cultural and political discourse, and while possibly more subtle than government censorship, it is no less damaging to the exchange of ideas if the regulations themselves are inconsistent or biased towards a particular ideology. And unfortunately, this bias has become more and more egregious in recent years as prominent conservative voices have found themselves deplatformed. Therefore, in the biggest facilitators of online conversations, we have rules that limit one side of the cultural aisle. The effects of such regulations by corporations with agendas cannot be understated.
What can be done to mitigate the media’s influence upon my thinking?
It can seem overwhelming when we realize how constantly bombarded we are with agendas of such a small group of elites. But for the Christian this should not be particularly surprising. I cannot drive to work or log onto Facebook without seeing explicit billboards and ads besieged with sexually explicit themes. Ultimately, the forces we wrestle with are spiritual. The battles we fight over culture are likewise largely theological.Therefore, to resist the thinking of the world we must be constantly renewing our mind (Romans 12:2).
We must stay in the Word of God and be intimately familiar with its truths. The man whose foundation is not upon the Word of God is in danger of being blown about by the falsehoods of the world. The truth is the greatest antidote to lies,and a daily habit of reading the Scriptures of truth is key to being grounded on a solid foundation. Reading primary sources criticizing wicked ideas like Critical Race Theory andtransgender ideology can also be immensely helpful. A robust knowledge of the Scriptures can also aid in identifying fact from fiction. For instance, you might not know all the academic arguments that obscure and prop up transgender ideology, but you can know the truth of God that in the beginning he made them male and female (Mark 10:6). You might not know all the nuances of critical theory and intersectionality, but knowledge of the Scriptures can help you identify false claims that arise from these ideas such as the color of your skin deciding whether you are inherently the oppressed or an oppressor (Romans 3:10-12).
We must realize that neutrality is a myth, and we must use this to our advantage. As I mentioned earlier, the idea of an unbiased news source is a fantasy. Every perspective comes from a point of view that is not neutral, but this is not inherently a bad thing. We must choose to prioritize perspectives that come from a true foundation and worldview. One example of this kind of source would be Albert Mohler’s “The Briefing,” which unapologetically reports five days a week on current news and events from a Christian worldview. We must plug into local churches who will feed our souls regularly on the truth of the Word of God. We must spend time with fellow Christians and be edified by the company of those who are also being renewed by the Word of God.
On the cultural level, we need to support organizations that promote traditional values and produce cultural commentary and entertainment that reflects those values. For instance, the Daily Wire has recently entered the entertainment industry and has started producing movies such a Run Hide Fight that go against the values that Hollywood exclusively promotes.
Finally, we must be balanced. In the cultural exchange of ideas, we need to be voices of reason and truth. We must not be consumed with ridiculous conspiracy theories, nor must we pretend that everything is perfectly fine with our cultural direction. We need to accurately represent the ideas that we disagree with, as well as offer true and compelling arguments against the ideas of the culture. The times of an anti-intellectual Christianity must end. We need rational and good arguments for the hope that is within us. Loving God with all our minds requires that we use our minds to the fullness of their capacity. A love of theology and knowledge of God’s truths bears the fruit of wisdom that is needed to engage the culture of sin and death. Doctrinally and theologically ignorant Christians with no knowledge of the Scriptures will be of little help in the battles of our time.