Getting the Picture—Or Not

Amusing Ourselves to Death by the late Neil Postman contributes significantly to our understanding of the irrationality of our current culture.

Postman observed that we mentally process pictures differently than we do words. Words evoke mental assessment. As we read an article we tend to analyze its content prior to adopting its message. Therefore, we might describe the process as reading>>analysis>>intellectual acceptance.

However, we tend not apply such analysis when we view pictures, but instead we internalize their message without scrutiny. The processing of picture might be expressed as follows: viewing>>intellectual acceptance. In other words, pictures possess the capacity to bypass our rational analysis and move directly to our belief system.

A current example of the power of pictures to circumvent reason on the way to our worldview is found in the public response to photographs of Trayvon Martin displayed by the news media. Many of these pictures apparently were taken in his early teens or earlier, and depicted him as a fresh-faced, innocent child. Viewers were left with the impression that George Zimmerman gunned down a smiling young boy.

Of course rational processing would lead us to consider that most people look innocent at that age, would call us to ask how Trayvon looked at the time of the shooting, how big he had become, would prompt us to inquire as to the character traits Travon had developed as he grew, would suggest that we inquire into his behavior the night of the shooting. Postman perspective suggests that these pictures lead our minds to detour around those processes and go straight to the conclusion that Trayvon was an innocent youth. The public response to those picture supports Postman’s perspective.

This being the case, think of how lethal a weapon television becomes in shaping human minds without our realizing it.

This media possesses great power to distort our understanding of news. Prior to television people got their news almost entirely through verbal media, be it newspapers and magazines or radio. The words used by these outlets to convey the news prompted us to think. The advent of television empowered those controlling the media to impose beliefs through pictures that escaped the assessment of the viewer.

Liberals in this country recognized and seized on television’s capacity to shape the American mind and culture while conservatives were asleep. Hence, for years ABC, NBC, and CBS comprised a monolithic liberal juggernaut with the capacity to mold the American mind at will. Even today, though these networks are losing viewers, they still seem to set the agenda for the entire American news industry and to a great extent mold public opinion.

It is no accident that the drastic culture shift occurred in our country shortly after television took over as the major news source.

Isn’t it interesting that liberals have tried talk radio and have failed every time. When you put liberal ideas into words, which in turn receive rational scrutiny, the irrationality of their ideas becomes evident. However, they can sell their ideas with pictures that are accepted uncritically.

The left grabbed additional power through the pictorial entertainment media. Movies have been around for a long time but most people viewed one movie at week at most. With the advent of television, pictorial entertainment became a nightly phenomenon. Movies soon became far more accessible, and with the advance of technology, pictorial entertainment has become almost omnipresent.

Pictorial entertainment possess even greater power than television news to shape thinking because it not only wields the invasive power of pictures but also because people tend to turn off their brains when consuming entertainment. Recently I saw a television program for kids that presented cohabitation as a normal next step for dating couples. A documentary on this topic would be forced at least to provide some rationale for adopting that trend, but television entertainment can just portray it as the norm, and viewers embrace it without giving it a thought.

Thus, through pictures the left has been able to sell its irrational agenda to an unthinking American population. As we will see in future posts, our society has given very little thought to the worldview that it currently embraces.

The left also disconnects our minds through the devaluation of thinking itself. I plan to address that topic tomorrow.

Have a comment?