The Power of Pictures

Recent events again underscored the power of pictures to elicit an emotional response. Ray Rice’s two week suspension quickly escalated when the videos from the elevator emerged. No new salient facts were revealed from these videos, but when people actually saw what happened, the pictures incited outrage.

Likewise, news stories of ISIS beheadings cause concern, but the pictures of James Foley’s beheading aroused public demands that President Obama take action.

This phenomenon was observed by the late Neil Postman in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death, who observed that verbal communication (reading and talking) is processed by the mind whereas pictorial communication advances directly to our perspective on life without rational analysis.

This impact of pictures can result in good when the emotional response has validity. For example, the outrage at the beheading of James Foley awakened the American people to the need to defeat an evil enemy.

Nonetheless, the power of pictures presents a problem because emotional responses for the most part are not rational and wise. For example, the response to the Ray Rice video aroused a lynch mob mentality rather than an even-handed and judicious response.

The power of pictures is especially troublesome because the pictures that are viewed by Americans are selected overwhelmingly by those committed to a liberal agenda, especially those of the news and entertainment media.

In my previous post I wrote that I would love to see the same sentence passed on Ray Rice applied to journalists, those in the entertainment industry, and liberal politicians. That will never happen because the news media will bury any pictures unfavorable to people in those groups.

Imagine the response if a video of a partial birth abortion were repeatedly shown on a prime-time major news outlet as were the pictures from Ferguson, MO. I believe that in short order legal abortion would be terminated. The atrocities of 9/11 were quickly removed from television airing because they did not fit the left’s pro-Muslim orientation. The liberal agenda is being advanced and the conservative position diminished because liberals control the pictures.

I have made the case previously that liberalism was able to take over American culture beginning in the sixties because of the advent of television and the increased access to movies, both picture-type media, and the liberal control of those media. These communication outlets allowed them to sell an irrational philosophical orientation to America because through the use of pictures they were able to bypass rational processing.

I also believe it is valid to expand Neil Postman’s theory to view all non-rational communication as bypassing mental processing. For example, people tend not to ask themselves whether the lyrics of songs represent reality. They listen for entertainment and not for information. Nonetheless, the lyrics, which they often listen to repeatedly, take up residence in their minds and influence their attitudes, values, and understanding of the world.

When we consider how many hours a day radically unbiblical lyrics are piped into the ears of a large segment of our young people, and adults also, we begin to understand that voting patterns and other behaviors are not merely due to their being low information voters but also because they are anti-truth propagandized people, who reflect that propaganda in how they vote and act.

This situation prompts me to wonder how a minority of liberals got control of these media, not to mention educational institutions and other components of our society. Even today the conversation among conservatives virtually always centers on the bias and destructiveness of the news and entertainment media and virtually never on how we might gain control of a significant part of those outlets. Our complaints matter little. What really matters is who controls the pictures. As long as America is looking at liberal pictures, conservatives, including Christian conservatives, will increasingly be viewed by Americans in a negative light. Those controlling the pictures control the nation.

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