When we are talking about the media, it comes down to this question: do they create the consciousness of the people or is the consciousness of the people merely being reflected by the media?
The fact is that practically everyone watches TV and reads the newspapers; therefore, the media is in a position to influence. They are just as much leaders of the society as the politicians, schoolteachers, priests, etc.
Sometimes, when I write letters to the editor or various other editorials, the newspapers do not print them because it goes against their advertising dollars. Yet, those who run a newspaper have great influence and are in a very responsible position, but nonetheless portray things that will benefit them.
The importance of what we hear from others and what we ourselves are speaking should be appreciated. What ever I hear or read will have the effect of confusing and entangling me more and more in materialistic life or it will have a liberating effect. Therefore, we must be very careful.
In this light, then, practically everyone in society is acting as a leader or a guru to others. Even the person who says “you don’t need to follow anyone; just go on your own” is teaching. His teaching is that you don’t need a leader or a guru. What this usually means is that you just end up hearing anyone’s and everyone’s opinion.
Not wanting to hear from anyone because I’m afraid of being misled is a sign of complete paranoia. And, acute paranoia is actually another symptom of this age.
The media is responsible for this to a great extent. By continually showing us how this madman is trying to start a war; this mad man is eating his followers; this madman is raping women or this madman is knocking off cops, we started seeing everyone as a madman and we walk around full of fear.
Actually, people are too scared to even walk anywhere. The perfect example is Los Angeles, where people don’t walk anywhere. They drive around in their cars all shackled up and they run to their doors and lock them. Then they try to remain alone, but this is not the solution, as it will not make us happy.
There is really no way I can live in the world without hearing from someone; without accepting someone as an authority; so it comes down to a question of who should I hear from?
Everyone is telling me something different: my parents are telling me this; the psychiatrists are saying something else; some guy is saying something else again in a newspaper article. It means, then, that I have to be a little more thoughtful. I have to analyze the character and motivation of those I am hearing from.
Of course, if you’re lazy, this makes it difficult. When everyone is saying something different, it means I have to make some effort to find out the truth. It’s much easier to say everybody’s got his or her own truth and I don’t need to worry. But the fact is, there is Absolute Truth and only when I am fixed up in harmony with that Truth will I be secure and full within myself and able to benefit others.
Anyone in a position of influence must be responsible for those he is influencing. This is a question that could be asked of the media: do they really care for those they are influencing?
I am always surprised how politicians are so eager to give leadership to others, how the media are ready to editorialize everything. Yet, if they were to examine their own lives, they would see that they are not happy; they don’t understand the purpose of life. What effect, then, will they have on others? It gives solid meaning to that old saying that the blind cannot lead the blind.
The responsibility of a leader is to lead people to a higher level of consciousness. And he must teach by his own example. His duty is to take a stand for the protection of society even if it makes him unpopular.
This is dangerous because the people in turn are followers of the media. The media’s business is catering to people’s senses. They are not interested in doing good. Their main interest is to create markets and make a buck. This is their motive. By catering to people’s senses, they are able to gain control.
The media, thinking they are the real leaders of society, makes it very difficult for someone else who is wanting to do good to others, and try and reach people through the media.
Although the media has undisputed power to influence people’s decisions and they are in control of the public mind, unfortunately they are for the greater part without any conscience.
Society is becoming more and more like animal society. Instead of helping people advanced toward an understanding of themselves and their relationship with God, the media and people in power are taking everyone into animal existence not only here in now, but in the future also.
When this gross body is finished, then according to one’s mentality, mature towards another kind of gross body. What we do, see, and hear now affects the mind or subtle body, and the subtle body in turn forms the nucleus for the kind of gross physical body that we take on in the next life.
The connection between the gross senses and the subtle material body is a science that must be understood. It can be seen that while the media and advertising people may not fully appreciate this science, they are aware of how it works and they use it to control people’s minds and exploit them.
Due to their own lust for material gain and following, they do not use their power to good effect. They want a society of animals because animals are easier to control and exploit than intelligent people. This, for example, is the whole strategy of advertising. Excite people’s gross senses and they will buy your product.
Another important effect of the media at present is that instead of bringing people to gather, they have built walls between people.
The word “media” comes from the word “medium” which means transparent like a window. The media is not meant to get in the way of communication between people. It is meant to be neutral like a tape recorder.
The editorial column is actually the correct place for the editor’s particular viewpoint or angle on things. As soon as the media begins distorting things, then it no longer qualifies as a medium for anything. It will not be possible for people to communicate in this way. My words might go through a reporter’s pen, but if his pen is like a butcher’s knife, cutting out this and that, changing things around, then he has failed to communicate what I am saying. Instead, he has presented his own ideas.
Reporters may make only small changes that seem unimportant; but that, plus the tone or vibe of their language, go to create a certain kind of picture in people’s minds. This is the danger when people in the media start taking the liberty to twist the truth.
People are always feeling alienated from everyone else in society. They are already small and powerless in the face of the powers that be. The media should not increase this. They should give people a chance to express what they are really seeing and feeling. But instead, they increase paranoia and separation. They create the feeling of “us” and “them”.
During the Vietnam War, all the magazines and newspapers liked to present the Vietcong as some kind of monolithic, evil force. People didn’t even know they were people, let alone South Vietnamese people who were fighting against the existing government.
They used blanket terms like “the Reds” and then, of course, they had to revise their terms later when there was a split between the Russian and Chinese Communists. In fact, there were people in the nation who tried to suggest it was just a ploy by the Communists to make “us” think they were not one force. The media created in people’s minds the idea of vague terms, of conspiring demons – “all you Reds are alike, all you hippies are alike, all you cults are alike”, etc.
Media tends to be stuck with this disease of generalizing. And usually they plead innocence out of stupidity: “We didn’t even know there was a difference and even if we did, we couldn’t explain it to people because the people are too dumb. They don’t want to know all of that. You’ve got to keep it simple and talk down to them. It’s easier just to label everyone as a member of this team or that team”.
Reading the newspaper is like reading the sports page. People picked the page just to see which side is winning, whether it’s the Arabs, the Jews, the Catholics, the Commies, the Democrats, the Republicans, or this or that. And there are two kinds of sports pages: local and international. Some games are played with guns, some with words, some with political power, etc. Everything is seen like a baseball game or a soccer match.
If they were to give a less superficial coverage of the things going on, the ideas involved, it would make things too complicated. You would lose the effect of the game vibe. People might not pick up the paper anymore. It would no longer be an easy spectator sport, our team against another team, us against them. It becomes a whole deeper thing. People have to start thinking.
It’s easier for the media to encourage team spirit and get people jacked up on that feeling. That way they will buy their newspapers and magazines to see if their team is winning or if the bad guys are taking over we’re coming up the block. For this reason, the media are always looking for a new angle or conflict or a new game that people can identify with.
So, it shows that the media’s interest is generally on the basic animal level. They consider only the animal instincts – eating, sleeping, having sex, defending, violence, and fear. They don’t understand that we are all on the same team and that there is no need for animosity.
We are all spirit souls, parts and parcels of the Supreme. Team spirit springs from the pack mentality of animal life. It does not spring from any spiritual tendencies of the soul.
In many ways, the media is not even in control of itself because it is controlled by the advertisers, and even the writers are stuck because they are having to write in a very limited space and they cannot get very deep.
Why are people not interested in hearing are presenting serious ideas or philosophy? Because they have become too attached to material sense gratification. Even though they can be explained to them in very simple, scientific terms, that they are not the body, and how being bound up in the material body is a suffering condition enter natural position is being that dominated part and parcel of God, they cannot understand. In the ancient text, the Bhagavad-Gita, it states:
“In the minds of those who are too attached to sense enjoyment and material opulence, and who are bewildered by such things, the resolute determination for devotional service to the Lord does not take place”.
In other words, ignorance is bliss!
So a person in that condition of being too attached to sense enjoyment does not want to be in knowledge because the truth will take him away from thinking “I can only enjoy myself if my senses are fully pleased”.
If they separate themselves from the body, they think there is no purpose in life. A person who is attached to sense enjoyment wants to remain in illusion so he or she can continue trying to be Master of the world.
As soon as we begin talking about us being spirit soul, the servant of God, a person thinks, “Hold on here, what are you trying to get me into”? Nobody wants to be a servant. Everyone wants to be a master. They want to be glorified. They want the recognition. And if you go to a party when you get all spiffed up and think you the belle of the ball and everybody pays attention to the other guy and not to you what happens?
Enviousness! And it’s this enviousness that makes it so a person does not want to hear about his true identity because then the only conclusion remaining is that his natural function is to render service to God.
Bhagavad Gita As-It-Is