Mass Media Hysteria and the Academy

I conduct discussions regarding perception and cognition in my art classes because significant art-making requires awareness of the ways in which our senses and our minds can be confused by distorted input and processing. It is no good at all to believe one knows what a thing is or how it appears without continuing critical examination of its apparent nature.These dialogs progress in Socratic ways. I ask a few questions regarding how things both simple and complex are perceived and how this influences our experience of them.Around midterm, my inquiries concern the nature of beliefs that have been constructed from mediated experience and its attendant distortions. I am always concerned that approximately seventy-five percent of the students in my classes express and argue conceptions of the world formed mostly as a result of having been exposed to experience as recast in contemporary media and academia.I can report that the majority of my college students profess belief in some form of apocalyptic dreadfulness as regards the future of our world. Many of these terrible global scenarios involve environmental disaster. Global warming is a big concern at the moment, for example.My students tend to believe we are poisoning the earth in ways that will prove to be our ultimate undoing. Their arguments are typicaly unqualifed by any indication or mention of the many beneficial uses of industrial products. These college students often reflect agitated points of view based on beliefs they derive from exposure to mass media and reinforced by our educational system.When asked where these ideas are encountered, students indicate they are commonly reported in mass media and delivered as gospel in classes having to do with environmental studies and other – even unrelated subjects. I recall a time when the academic tradition had much to do with encouraging skepticism as preferable to partially-examined belief. That seems no longer to be the case. This puts us in a sad state for a number of reasons.Many of us act as if we believe air travel is far more dangerous than driving an automobile. Even those of us who know the astronomical odds disputing that belief often feel and act as it were untrue.In general, we see the world as more dangerous than it is because we are shown situations in which acts of danger, personal harm, violence, death, destruction, and pathological behavior are depicted in numbers vastly greater than their statistical appearance in our lives. I am not debating specific arguments or points of view – but I am questioning them. I am indicating that opposing points of view are, for the most part, left out of the most prevalent mediated (cultural and educational) presentations to which we are exposed. Instead of promoting an attitude of healthy skepticism (which, after all is a hallmark of the scientific method and academic tradition) pundits and educators quote circumstance and evidence as if they “prove” a particular point of view. “Evidence” does nothing but provide documentation that a thing or an event was analyzed from a particular point of view – especially scientific evidence. Hypotheses are hypotheses. Theories are theories. Science can not provide more than this. Besides skepticism, tentative hypotheses, and theories, everything else is belief. We should know by now that belief is a weak and arbitrary form of knowledge.The fact that we have arrived at a point in which particular contemporary scientific and cultural points of view are considered as gospel truth, indicates that science and contemporary culture have become nothing more and nothing less than forms of religious belief. Presenting only one point of view in a cultural or educational setting is propaganda – not truth.*Junk ScienceThe Global Warming Myth?*Image:

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