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AlumNews: Talon Articles

Loyalty beyond reason

Friday, October 26, 2007  
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By Jill Ramsey

We are not as free as we think. Our lives have been overtaken by the media without us even realizing it. In John Mayer’s hit “Waiting on the world to change,” he directs our attention to the problem.

“And when we trust our television, what we get is what we got, cause when they own the information, oh, they can bend it all they want.”

The media encompasses much of our daily lives. On any given day we will be too busy to remember to eat lunch but we’ll have consumed over 5,000 media messages before we go to bed.

We are exposed to media messages in chapel through an Invisible Children T-shirt or someone using the newest cell phone.  We are unknowingly influenced by these powerful, subliminal messages. 

It’s not possible for us to avoid the messages but it is possible to control their effects.

I’ve watched the “Persuaders” segment from PBS’s Frontline series in two of my classes recently.  In the show, the CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi says the media is successful if they “create loyalty beyond reason.” The advertising industry studied cults to discover how branding works and found that people are loyal to anything that gives them a feeling of “belonging” and allows them “to make meaning.” He went on to say how churches once gave Americans this feeling, but media has taught people that products will fulfill the need to belong to a group.

When we buy MP3 players we go straight for the iPods. When we grab a drink with a friend we go to Starbucks. Regardless of the sport, our loyal attention goes to OU game scores. Admit it; there is loyalty to our brands, to our lifestyle. A lifestyle created for us by “them.” We go to American Eagle because the models look like they are living our ideal life. We came to Oklahoma Christian because we could relate to the people in View magazine. 

Loyalty beyond reason may sound sweet, but it is very dangerous and nowhere a Christian needs to be.

At Real Simple magazine, when a product was mentioned we included one sentence why we loved it followed by where to buy it. My editor said, “People trust we did the research and that’s enough for them.” They don’t care what our ‘road test’ consisted of.  For all they knew we “bent” the information to our advantage so that our advertisers got a free promo.

The media does not have our best interest at heart, they have an agenda.  As McComb and Shaw’s “Agenda Setting Theory” states, our personal agendas are influenced by the media messages we receive.

A magazine needs to pay the bills. They promote top designers so top designers want to keep advertising with them. After it’s published, we see their product in a magazine and trust it is whatever they say it is.

This is not simply a problem with the messages the ‘world’ sends. We have become robotic receivers in every part of our lives, listening to biased messages hooking us to “loyalty beyond reason.”

Churches and chapel meetings have become media dependent. There are flyers, bulletin boards, PowerPoint announcements, documentaries and commercials all trying to “break through the clutter” of the other media messages to brand us to Christianity, campus community, specific ministries, etc. Are we loyal to these things without reason?

We spend more time involved in media experiences than anything else we do. What has become our second nature? Who are we without the things we loyally prescribe to?

The effects of media are frightening. Our lives should be a reflection of reason, not of ritualism. We must be attentively discerning our loyalties. There is not any institution deserving of “loyalty without reason.”

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