Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Mass media addiction and its cognitive consequences


Mass media addiction has been bad for many decades and continues to get worse since the advent of the internet and social media (these having amplified the mass media by orders of magnitude, rather than displacing it as some once assumed or hoped).

The mass media controls society, but nobody (no person or specific group of people) controls the mass media.


Most people in modern societies cannot go cold turkey and simply stop their exposure, because the mass media is unavoidable - it shouts for attention from every computer screen and communication device, from posters and bill boards, in the conversational topics of the people around us.

All we can do is cut-back and cut-back until (with luck) a point is reached when we begin to emerge from under the cloud, become somewhat independent again - but even this is a constant fight against being distracted, attracted, drawn-in and again addicted. Withdrawal must begin again and again.

The most profound truths, the most lasting experiences, the most precious memories are swept away like a drop of crystal water in a daily torrent of polluted effluent - for someone unresistingly, enthusiastically to consume the mass media is like standing in the path of a burst dam with your mouth wide open and where the deluge just goes on and on, and on.

But the fact that most of the output of the mass media is a pollutant is not the worst problem; the worst problem is that the mode by which the mass media communicates become habitual - until it becomes very difficult to think in any other fashion.

The worst problem is that by consuming a lot of the mass media for a lot of our lives, we are entrained to its cognitive mode; that mode becomes habitual, normal - and eventually unavoidable. Ultimately, we cannot think otherwise, but only in the way that the mass media thinks.


The mass media is a language that imposes exclusions, has rules; the exclusions include all objectivity - such that everything is a matter of opinion, a personal point of view; and the rules are those of emotions - attention, excitement, interest, boredom, happy and sadness...

The mass media is therefore necessarily a flickering kaleidoscope of impressions that evoke feelings; the mass media are therefore essentially relativistic - not in terms of asserting the validity of relativism (which would be self-refuting), but in terms of its cognitive style.

Therefore, the reason for the deadly relativism of modern societies is not that radical philosophers have convinced people of the validity of relativism; but because relativism is the cognitive mode of the mass media, and people are habitually entrained to think and reason the way the mass media thinks and reasons.


Even when the mass media is asserting objectivity, then in practice (and without any justifying theory) it can be, and usually will be, in a moment be undercut by simply starting something else.

(Those amazing words 'and now...' which were noted by Neil Postman as used to join up whatever happens to be in the new on a particular day.)

Every statement is thereby retrospectively reframed as opinion - and confronted by another opinion. The mass media presents only opinion, and everything is treated by it as opinion - as and when necessary.


Opinions can - in principle - be ranked by the heirearchical authority of the opinionator; then re-ranked by another criterion; and again and again.

While being presented, each and any opinion displaces all alternatives; then something else is presented, and that overwhelms all alternatives.


In this respect the mass media exemplifies the nature of modern societies in which social functions are divided without the over-arching unification system of religion - which potentially comprehends, explains and regulates all other functions.

Yet the media is not without its over-arching system - that over-arching system is New Leftism or Political Correctness, and it is not a centripetal system but a centrifugal anti-system. In other words, the ideology which connects (but does not bind) all the strands of the media is the ideology of opposition.

Opposition to what? Opposition not so much to the natural, the common-sensical - to legitimate authority; but rather opposition to the very reality, the categories themselves of the natural, common-sensical, legitimate, authoritative or any other such principle.

The very cognitive structure of the mass media makes any such concepts meaningless - instead of structuring reality they become objects for examination, discussion, challenge, using and discarding - then maybe taking up again.


Therefore the modern Western mass media as it now operates is not a tool which could, in principle, be used to propagate a variety of political ideologies; rather the modern mass media is of its essence a Leftist phenomenon, THE Leftist phenomenon - a phenomenon, that is, of opposition to Christianity and to transcendental Good - because Christianity and The Good cannot operate if treated in practice and necessarily - by the very structuring mode of the media - as opinions.