Columnists > Soul Food

Ministry of Culture, Inc.

So who needs censorship, anyway?

Issue: "Wedgwood shooting," Oct. 2, 1999

It suddenly became more important than ever to read your Bible. On September 8th, to be exact, the day that CBS Corporation and Viacom, Inc. announced the largest media merger in history. Before you call me a fanatic here (and remember that all you WORLD subscribers are fanatics to the rest of the country), keep in mind the story your pastor shared with you about the foolish frog in the pot who didn't realize that the gently warming water was eventually going to cook him.

When I was a kid and life was simple, a cookie company could reliably be expected to produce cookies. Later, in the 1970s, the same company might be found making cookies, lightbulbs, and airplanes. Confusing, perhaps, but not yet sinister. But increasingly we are seeing-note Walt Disney Co.'s 1996 purchase of ABC-a vertical integration of related enterprises for the purpose of leveraging one media to achieve dominance in another. In this latest movement across media boundaries to aggregate control, CBS kicks in the advertising outlets, TV and radio stations, cable; Viacom kicks in film companies, publishing houses, a chain of video stores, Internet business.

Net result: an insidious drift toward a centralizing of information into fewer and fewer hands that approaches a de facto ministry of culture; the most trafficked websites owned by the familiar big conglomerates; news and entertainment bleeding into each other; media firms that comment on themselves in an incestuous conflict of interest; a bundling of news and advertising to steer the unwary to certain messages; cross-promotion that leaves the illusion of choice where in fact choice is increasingly narrowed; technically a plethora of selections but practically a drowning of the voices of dissidence by the din around it.

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Come to Philadelphia sometime and see our variety. The fifth largest city in America has not one classical music radio station (we do have five CBS stations), as WFLN went belly up last year, the victim of a corporate financial decision. Now almost everywhere you flip your dial sounds like a cut from the same heavy metal album. My 16-year-old son loves it. I think it's scary.

Or consider Rupert Murdoch, that media mogul, who saw to it that a book critical of the Chinese governor of Hong Kong would never see the light of day at Random House because he didn't want to offend China.

What difference does it make if you have a hundred stations if they're all the same station? Where's the variety, the originality, the daring, the courage, the real dialogue, when all share a common worldview a mile deep-then quibble fatuously over the one-inch top layer of disagreement? It doesn't matter how many ways you tell me I need a break today, or a new SUV, or freedom from cellulite, or license over my own body, if nobody's allowed into the discussion to tell me that what I need is a solution to my sin problem.

The East has good old-fashioned censorship. The West doesn't need it. Unpopular ideas (like Christ, like sexual abstinence, like the well-guarded biological secret that a human sperm plus a human egg produce a human being, not disposable protoplasm) don't need to be vetoed where a "positive veto" can be exercised in the form of millions of dollars being thrown at a program that pleases advertisers. Satan (if I may adduce his involvement) is just as happy to use seduction as the iron fist. He is just as effective through purveying generally accepted patterns of judgment and fashions of thought as through the Gulag. After all, who's the more powerful enemy of the church, the Beast or the Harlot?

I'm tempted to soften this, to say, "Just keep your eye on it." But the fact is, in the nature of the case, your eye will not likely catch it, no more than it catches every Coke ad subliminally slipped into the movies, no more than the unsuspecting frog perceives the water temperature rising. There's nothing for it but to stay in the Word. For brothers, now more than ever, "They are not just idle words for you-they are your life" (Deuteronomy 32:47).

Andrée Seu
Andrée Seu

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.


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