Reckling: Dumbed down by the media |

Reckling: Dumbed down by the media

A few days ago, I met some friends for lunch at the Woody Creek Tavern. They were on vacation, enjoying a respite from the big city. As we began to visit and deliberate what to order, Cathy turned to me and said, “I am so ready for Kate to have her baby! I have Zimmerman-trial fatigue in a bad way.”

I asked, “When is Kate’s baby due?” At the same time, I was feverishly racking my brain for which of our friends has a daughter named Kate who might be expecting. I couldn’t think of anyone off the top of my head.

“Well, it’s due soon, like in the next week!” Cathy exclaimed with joy. “Everyone is placing odds whether it will be a boy or a girl. I saw where the odds are 5-4 that ‘James’ is the favored boy name!” I like that name, I thought to myself. Finally, I asked, “Whose Kate is this? Someone I should know?” As I soon discovered, it was the “royal Kate,” the Duchess of Cambridge, far across the Atlantic Ocean, whose soon-to-be-born child would become third in line to the British throne. Whew! I was relieved that it wasn’t a close friend’s daughter that I’d absentmindedly forgotten about.

“We need that baby to come! We’re really sick of that trial, but the media just keeps rehashing it because there’s nothing else going on! You know how the media is,” Cathy said.

But do we really know “how the media is”? For a few months, I’ve been spending the majority of my time in a rural setting, living alone with my dog and removed from media sources most of the time. Naturally, my thoughts have become more focused on the land. At what time will the majestic blue heron cast its shadow upon me as it sails up the creek to fish each morning? How best can I increase quality grass growth and hay production before next summer’s end? Is there any chance for rain so irrigation concerns can be eased?

Admittedly, I have not stayed au courant with the media’s ridiculous method of selecting topics that hypnotize an entire country. They take one story and run with it until individuals in that chosen saga are all known on a first-name basis or, worse, by one of those celeb-couplet names like Tomcat, Brangelina or Kimye.

I have one good friend who salivates over the new generation of sexy newscasters. He takes note of changes in their hairstyles, the nuances of their makeup and attempts to nail down what their off-air personalities might be. Even our newscasters have evolved into eye candy to make “the message” undeniably seductive and convincing to viewers.

Followers are brainwashed and hammered with persuasive messages that cover life’s most precious topics. Advertising specialists design subliminal triggers that convince us which automobiles to drive, how to deny the natural course of aging by artificially resurrecting sexual capability and how to be “more beautiful.” We are told what to eat and drink and which pills to take.

Have we lost our minds? To have millions of lives center around media interpretations and base important decisions on how the media present the case is pure insanity, not to mention irresponsible. Is governmental dysfunction directly related to our media-dominated society?

When the highly rated “American Idol” show garners more votes than the U.S. presidential election, it’s clear where the priorities lie. Americans have more interest in pop stars than presidents. Our current president has succumbed to slow jammin’ on “Saturday Night Live,” and Al Green serenades to charm the starry-eyed, media-addicted voters. Connections with “superstars” align him with their popularity. Once elected, media stunts and conjured swag are used to increase presidential approval ratings. Should media stardom be the ultimate skill set of a president? Have we allowed presidential job performance to be tied to such irrelevant standards?

Distortions and bias are easily recognized by the rest of the world, but most Americans remain oblivious, too enraptured with convenient fodder. It is almost impossible to obtain an open, objective view of the myriad issues our country faces (both domestically and globally) by watching our own broadcast networks. As people unwittingly grow accustomed to unchecked media, propaganda is easily disseminated. Media have become an incredibly powerful weapon, used to influence American minds and “dumb down” the masses. Whoever controls the media shall control the country.

As our lunch concluded, Cathy and her daughter announced they were rushing back to town to watch the season premiere of “Honey Boo Boo.” Completely clueless again, I hugged them both goodbye. As I headed up the road toward home, dark voluminous clouds hung over the Woody Creek Valley. I imagined that tomorrow the hay fields would perk up with the verdant green that results from a good summer rain.

Margaret Reckling lives in Woody Creek and welcomes your comments at

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