We hope to see a day when various elements of media become part of the solution rather than a main cause of the problem.
A couple of weeks ago in this column, we tried to suggest that since the family is the basic unit of society, all larger institutions, from corporations to governments, actually depend on families for their own survival.
One institution that fits into this dependent-on-family category is the media. Yet to watch that institution in action, you would think they were out to destroy the family rather than support it.
The mainstream consciousness, the collective of our individual paradigms and perceptions, is enormously influenced by our all-pervasive electronic media in which amoral minorities often masquerade as majorities and suck away traditional values and family priorities and balance, creating a moral vacuum where faith, commitments and a clear-headed sense of what is important are hard to cling to. The face of the media/technology vacuum is a shiny but distorted mirror that changes the shape of how we see ourselves and causes us to worship false gods and graven images.
We live in a world where kids have to be asked to leave the room to avoid seeing some of the ads that come on during the Super Bowl.
In a pathetic attempt to excuse themselves, media spokesmen like the late Jack Valenti of the Motion Picture Association of America say things like, "We don't influence people's values, we only reflect them." But anyone who is observant, and particularly anyone with children, knows that the values (or lack thereof) portrayed across our small and large screens have enormous impact on viewers, especially on children.
In my (Richard's) management consulting days, I had enough clients in media-related fields to notice the disturbing fact that a relatively few, very atypical people, mostly "jet setters" in the extreme, control or at least influence 90 percent of our media. These are not typical, mainstream Americans and they do not have typical, mainstream values. Yet the reach and influence of their media allow them to pose what they produce as "the norm" and cause members of the real and silent majority (those who don't jump into bed on the first date and don't treat violence with indifference) to wonder if they are out of step and rather old-fashioned.
Just imagine what it could do if mainstream media reversed itself and stopped being a "values vacuum" and became instead, at least in part, a "values blower" that bolstered and beefed up the beliefs and balance of strong traditional families, thus popularizing parenting and creating a new mainstream consciousness where it is cool to be committed and popular to be prioritized.
We hope to see a day when various elements of media become part of the solution rather than a main cause of the problem. It is only a dream for society, but here are five elements of it:
1. We get a new rating system for movies that takes into account the motive and message of the movie rather than just basing itself on some formula of what is shown and said (a lot of PG-13 movies portray a light, comedic form of amorality that is far more dangerous and damaging to kids than dark and identifiable immorality); and we develop some kind of recognition or awards for scripts and programs and movies that portray universal values and show them as mainstream.
2. We get more balance, and specifically more moderate, middle ground in our news coverage and commentary. Instead of the constant, shrill harangue from the extreme right or the far left, we get truly balanced, accurate news. And good and hopeful news is covered as well as all the depressing bad news.
3. We actually find celebrities and other potential opinion leaders who exemplify and speak well for the joy and excitement and the satisfaction and peace of families, balance and values — and we get them on a new kind of reality show where they can express their views and set their example to the viewing public.
4. We get more good writers and producers turning out video games that teach values rather than violate them.
5. The public begins to object much more loudly and powerfully to any type of music that offends the basic, universal values that 99 percent of us hold; and gives stronger support to the production of more music that actually promotes commitment, priorities, improvement and good decisions.
Today, most parents think of media as an adversary rather than an asset with regard to their families and their parenting. And it will not change overnight.
But as the basic consumer of media, families have more power than they realize, and we simply need to find more effective and viable ways to use that consumer power. Media decision-makers need to be helped to understand that appealing to values that families already have is better (and ultimately more profitable) than trying to alter or mold peoples' values to match their own.
The Eyres' three latest books are "The Entitlement Trap," "5 Spiritual Solutions" and "The Three Deceivers." Richard and Linda are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Read Linda Eyre's blog at www.deseretnews.com/blog/81/A-World-of-Good.html and visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com or www.valuesparenting.com. Listen to their weekly radio show on Mondays at 4:30 at www.byuradio.org