God has been speaking to me recently about my capacity to think critically. It tends to gush a bit too much. It overflows into areas of life and relationships where it need not be - and really should not be. Come, Holy Spirit, and help me be more careful...and please be patient with me while I grow.
However in one area of life this critical mind will continue to flow full and free: my engagement with the media. Reading the newspaper on these two most recent Saturdays alerted me to this again.
On one Saturday I am in a country in Asia. I open my newspaper and it reads like a memorandum from the marketing department of the newly elected president. He has just won what most people believe was a rigged election. He has the opportunity to be a Mandela-like conciliator in a deeply divided country. What does he do? On the night before I arrive he arrests the opposition leader for a whole series of trumped-up charges ... and then spends the rest of the week trying to sell the idea to the public through the newspaper.
Speaking of selling, on the following Saturday I am back home in New Zealand and open the Weekend Herald, trumpeting itself as the "Newspaper of the Year". I am confronted with page after page of advertising, dwarfing little pockets of news. It isn't so much the space stolen from news stories by commerical interests that bothers me. It is what this kind of newspaper does to unthinking readers. A column on a tragedy in Haiti ... and then a full page on the latest winter package deal to Fiji or the Gold Coast? A paragraph on a food crisis in Tanzania ... and then a full page on the latest massive sales at the Warehouse? Who can withstand this bombardment?
Our compassion becomes lost in our greed. Our sense of justice is reduced to clear our hearts of any burden. Our noble commitments last as long as the latest sale.
I know which newspaper's readers makes me feel more sad - oh, yes I do. But I am not so sure which newspaper's readers are more seduced...