Recently one of our neighbors shared with me an article written by her teenage daughter, Katie, for her high school newspaper. The article was titled “Obsessed with Celebrities? The media is too…,” and it dealt with the destructive behavior of celebrities, in particular as they related to young people who often follow their example.
Katie wrote, “Global fascination with dull celebrities is spreading like an epidemic, infecting us through the eyeballs in the lethal form of the television. Important issues are being ignored, and it’s not fair that we have to hear about these airbrushed brutes everyday. The focus of the worldwide population has shifted so drastically from real media to sensational media. Could this pose a negative effect on our society?”
Another excerpt from Katie’s article: “When news broke that our very own starlet Paris Hilton was arrested, it was all over the news, even in China. We call this nonsense sensational media. Sensational media is taking the place of real media that shows meaningful events. When younger Americans see the celebrities’ misfortunes highlighted everywhere they go, the celebrities are setting a bad example for the younger kids, who are inevitably looking up to them. These kids are developing trashed minds and becoming more and more materialistic.”
And a final word from Katie: “Will our media learn to look through the bleach blonde, spray tanned, rich and untalented fog that is billowing out of Hollywood Hills and seeping into the media? Will the day ever come? Well, you sure can’t find out in a magazine or on the news.”
Wise words from one so young. But as I read her article my mind turned to other destructive obsessions that distract us from reality. The dominant issue that came to mind was our political discourse, which in most cases sheds more heat than light on any given subject. The debates among presidential candidates have been tiresome and a clear example of how the “tyranny of words” can lead to confusion and unease. A recent news item declared that the public is suffering from “debate fatigue.” No wonder!
One particular topic of discussion will, I believe, serve to illustrate my concern. In recent months, I have heard enough baloney about our Social Security system to fill every delicatessen in the country. Most pronouncements are pure scare tactics in pursuit of votes. The most often used accusation alleges that in a few years the system will be bankrupt and future generations of workers will not receive benefits. Those who espouse such a point of view either do not understand the system or are engaging in a deliberate deception.