July 25, 2011
One interesting aspect of the Rupert Murdoch-Tabloid scandal, (there are many) is people’s interest in trivia, gossip and sensationalism. Carl Jensen, founder of Project Censored, speaks about “junk food news that he defines as “sensationalized, personalized, and homogenized inconsequential trivia.” He is the author of Junk Food News 1877-2000.
In the US, the “Supermarket tabloids” are very popular. The National Enquirer has a weekly circulation 4,100,000 and STAR has a weekly circulation 3,600,000.
This is not just a US phenomenon. News of the World, before its shut down, has a circulation of 2,600,000. The German tabloid Das Bild has a circulation close to 4 million. The Swiss publication Blick has a readership of 750,000 which represent close to 10 % of the Swiss population.
Media is a reflection of society and I believe that we get the media we deserve.
Such publications would not exist unless people purchased them. The same applies for tabloid television with programs such as Hard Copy, Inside Edition, and A Current Affair, as well as reality shows. Corporations would not advertise in such media unless distribution and ratings were high and thus making it profitable. So ultimately, the public (you and me) are responsible for the media we get and pay for.
Should we just accept the fact and move on or should we rebel against elements of our culture that we think are not positive? Surely the craving for gossip, dirt, scandal and violence are not the sign of a good mental health for a society.
Someone said that every society needs a king (leadership) a poet (to show us the beauty in life) and a prophet (to let us know when things are not right, that we can do better for ourselves and the world.)
Yaakov Astor, a former Yeshiva teacher and prolific author believes that the secret and greatness of the biblical prophets was that they could touch that small, still voice and ignite the flame of moral conscience in an instant. No matter how much one has become immersed in an empty culture, gotten used to morally lax standards, veered far from one’s true self there remains that “still, small voice” inside that knows right from wrong, truth from untruth.
Maybe the role of the ethicist or anyone concern about values should be akin to the one of the prophet. Maybe an ethicist like a prophet should sometimes have the courage to go against current trends in culture and try to raise the standards of decency, civility and respect in society.
As Irish journalist Lise Hand once wrote: