“We are governed, our minds molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested largely by men we have never heard of.” -Edward Bernays, founder of modern advertising
The typical American child rolls out of bed, groggy after a short night of sleep. Following a breakfast of sugary cereal swimming in hormone and steroid-laden cow’s milk, the child heads off to the local state propaganda facility. According to aristocratic philosopher, Bertrand Russell, it is within the walls of this institution that the social engineers will begin their work on the child:
. . . education should aim at destroying free will so that, after pupils have left school, they shall be incapable, throughout the rest of their lives, of thinking or acting otherwise than as their schoolmasters would have wished.
Diet, injections, and injunctions will combine, from a very early age, to produce the sort of character and the sort of beliefs that the authorities consider desirable, and any serious criticism of the powers that be will become psychologically impossible.
After a day at the government training facility, the 3:00 bell rings, the child heads home and he lets himself into the house. It is here that his true education begins: media and entertainment. For eight hours a day on average.
What influence do these hours of media have? It was over half a century ago that Bertrand Russell observed that “the cinema,” even more than the education system, was “perhaps the most important of all the modern agents of propaganda, leading to almost worldwide uniformity.” And the cinema of his day exerted a minuscule influence compared with the big media of today. But decades ago, already, he was able to observe that,
The great majority of young people in almost all civilized countries derive their ideas of love, of honour, of the way to make money, and of the importance of good clothes, from the evenings spent in seeing what Hollywood thinks good for them. I doubt whether all the churches and schools combined have as much influence as the cinema on the opinions of the young . . . . The producers of Hollywood are the high priests of a new religion.
And Edward Bernays, the founder of modern propaganda and advertising, said this about the media masters of 80 years ago:
In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons...who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.
Now, if the media elite exercised that level of control way back then, how much more manipulation can take place today, with the multi-billion dollar, high-tech 21st century propaganda tools at their disposal?
In Romans 12:2, Paul admonishes us to not be conformed to the pattern of this world. But we have become a generation of media addicts, opening our minds to hypnotic devices. We’ve unknowingly been programmed with a worldview and a lifestyle by the plug-in drug of modern media.
Indeed, media and entertainment have become the new reality--a reality which counterfeits the incredible existence God has given us. It’s a manufactured, alternative, cheap reality. It’s an entertainment vortex that delivers a quick-fix hit directly to the brain’s pleasure centers, but leaves the heavy media user more bored and less happy. Voila. The social engineers, Madison Avenue, Hollywood, the music industry, and video game designers have captured the now conformed masses.
But the rest of Romans 12:2 invites us to be not conformed, but transformed. Transformed by the renewing of our minds. In fact, it is the truth about the effects of these media that can begin to set us free. When we know the nature of the trap, we can begin to desire freedom from media addiction and to live transformed lives.
Because of this need for people to be set free from the media trap, I’ve been sharing the Media on the Brain seminar at camp meetings, churches, schools, conferences, teachers’ conventions, camps, and anywhere the Lord will open the door. Through the seminar and the DVDs, the Holy Spirit has been freeing minds and turning eyes to Jesus.
As a teacher of ten years, I first saw the problem of media addiction up close in my own students. In many cases, my public school US History students would wake up to the fact that they were getting “owned” by the corporate media (as one media executive admitted). In many cases, my Christian school students would see that, far from finding freedom in media and entertainment, they were walking into the high-tech control grid of the media elite. But, beyond the classroom, as the Lord has opened doors for me to share this seminar more widely, we’ve witnessed thousands hear the voice of God calling them to throw out the “rat poison” of satanic, mind-altering, character-deforming entertainment, and to take time to fast from the virtual world: To taste and see that the Lord is good.
So, what are the mind-altering effects of 21st century media?
Don’t expect to see this reported on TV, but literally thousands of studies have underscored the destructive effects of entertainment television. Perhaps most notably, recent research has shown that frontal brain regions are damaged by viewing theatrical style entertainment television. So in other words, the following frontal lobe functions are impaired in a brain that is raised with television: spirituality, morality and the will. Reason and conscience. Judgment and decision making. Prayer and worship. Discerning spiritual truth. Empathy and altruism.
At the same time, limbic system circuits are enhanced through viewing theatrical style entertainment television. Or in other words, the following will be more active in the brain raised on television: Fear, stress, lust, impulses, worry, anxiety, anger, irritability, negativity, aggression. Researchers have observed that an overactive limbic system is a signature of the brain of an abused child. And we find an overactive limbic system as a result of television viewing. This research explains why it is illegal in France to broadcast television on the public air waves that is aimed at children under three. It’s literally akin to child abuse.
Likewise, recent studies have firmly established the seriously brain-damaging effects of video gaming. Just ten hours of gaming over only one week was shown to reduce prefrontal cortex function. Just imagine what hours per day, every day, year after year will do to the brain. Simply put, gaming is being shown to be even more damaging than television.
How about music? Revelations from scientists and scholars, as well as admissions from popular musicians themselves, have shown that musical style has perhaps the biggest influence on mind and character of all the forms of modern media. While music is an agency of God designed to promote thought—after all, the root word of music is ‘muse,’ meaning, ‘to think deeply’—the popular musical styles of today hypnotically shut down rational thought and turn music into just another a-muse-ment (amuse means not think).
But even more seriously, scholars point to music as the most potent control mechanism available in human society. Says one anthropologist regarding music, “There is probably no other human cultural activity, which is so all-pervasive and which reaches into, shapes, and often controls so much of human behavior." Popular music has already proved to be the greatest force for social cohesion in modern times, and it will no doubt play a decisive role in sweeping the masses into the false worship system of the last days Babylon, just as music triggered the crowd into worship of Nebuchadnezzar’s image in ancient Babylon.
And what about spectator sports? Pornography? Excessive texting and social networking? Multitasking? And the roboticizing of human relationships?
It’s time for us to dig deeply into all these issues and face what it is that we’ve gotten ourselves into as a church. The call to come out of Babylon was made over a hundred and fifty years ago. But we’ve invited Babylon back into our homes. Indeed, we have escaped God’s reality and have stepped into a counterfeit reality.
Edward Bernays once pondered the power possessed by himself and the media elite: “If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it?”
Let us not conform to their pattern. Let us not be manipulated by the entertainment industry, passively accepting their programming. For it is by beholding that we become slaves. Instead, let us be transformed into the image of Jesus–for it is by beholding Him, that we become changed.
Scott Ritsema founded Belt of Truth Ministries in 2012. He is a part time Bible teacher in Michigan at Great Lakes Adventist Academy. On Sabbaths, Scott travels to churches to present the Media on the Brain seminar, as well as his new Raising the Remnant parenting seminar. To purchase the DVDs or invite Scott to do a live seminar, visit www.BeltofTruthMinistries.com.