It’s said that there are youngsters who think that you can shoot somebody dead and the person will be able to get up and walk away. This apparently explains some incidents of shooting by kids. They don't really understand what guns do. If, after all, a movie star dies in a movie, and is very much alive on TV or in the newspapers the next day or the next week, then obviously shooting doesn't make the person dead. Alarming, to say the least!
We really do not know enough (never mind that there have been so many studies) about what TV, movies and electronic media do to the way people perceive, to how they mediate what they see and hear on film and television. (Might this explain why people in Jamaica, despite being constantly warned, still drive their vehicles into overflowing gullies and get swept away and drowned?) Nevertheless, what we do know makes it clear that the combination of images and the spoken word has an enormous and immediate effect on people and certainly provides a sufficient basis for the spin doctors to spin things very effectively, so that, as jdid says, “…it’s not even about the real message anymore; its about who spins it better.” When jdid expresses concern about people still being convinced that Barack Obama is a Muslim despite the brouhaha about his going to the church pastored by Rev Jeremiah Wright, a Christian minister of religion, he's pointing to an example of how people can – what? Uncomprehend? Perskewceive?
The first 'academic' article I ever published discussed strategies for English teachers who were trying to teach students to mediate TV and film. (It's less of a problem with radio, since images, which are very powerful things, aren't part of the message there.) This discernment skill has to be taught, especially as media become more and more pervasive. Determining bias in written material is hard enough! Never mind how bright we are, we will have difficulty construing what's in the newspapers, what's on TV, what's on the net, what's in the movies, unless we have somehow learned how to deconstruct these things. And I don't mean that word in any highfalutin sense. I mean literally pull these things apart so that we can see how they are made, and so understand how they work.
Stephen Harper's baby blue sweater may have persuaded many people that he is a warm family man. However, many others have been made aware – by all the talk about the blue sweater and what it was intended to do – of how images are used in the attempt to sway their opinions. Two days ago, Mr Harper (having finally, one week before the election, deigned to present the Conservative platform) suggested that the devastated stock markets were an opportunity for people to snap up good investments! So much for the warm fuzzy family man!
So it’s a problem that’s serious and needs to be addressed. I suspect that there hasn't been enough of an attempt at teaching these – as Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner called them – 'crap detection' skills to students in junior and high schools. Because that's where it has to begin – indeed, starting earlier wouldn't be a bad idea. So, yes, fsjl, Caribou Barbie and her "Hiya solja!" and "Drill, baby, drill!" acts represent a real threat. God bless us with a spirit of discernment – in Canada over the next week, in the US over the next month!