In the good olden days, the cost for bringing “Reality” into our living room via mass-media news outlets fell mostly on government and partially on the consumer. Not anymore. The model for delivering news to the customer has fundamentally changed; and a new mass-media news model has emerged, with devastating effect on individuals and society that most of us probably are not aware of.
News communication has technologically progressed through time — from radio (and newspapers) to television, to cable and satellite and finally to Internet. As news communication changed its face technologically, another fundamental change has taken place — the consumer ceased to be the main source of revenue for the operation of mass-media news providers. A new model was born — news channels provide content free-of-charge, and advertisement fills the void created by the removal of the traditional major sources that supported operation of mass-media news outlets.
This change, conveying “Reality” to the consumer mixed with ads, has since its inception been exercising adverse effect on how we perceive reality. Suddenly Reality, as reflected to us from the screen (or from the newspaper), is no longer “pure reality”. Instead, it is delivered to us in a confused form — Reality combined with Temptation, facts of life colored by constant seduction to consume products and services.
What does this unholy marriage of reality and temptation do to our psyche?
Reality and Temptation are addressed by two different parts of our psyche: I and Ego (respectively). Once the former are mixed on the screen, blurred beyond distinction (where reality becomes temptation and temptation reality), the latter become confused — “I” and “Ego” are inter-mixed, subconsciously no longer able to discern clearly which is which. I starts to lose its grip on reality, and its control over Ego is weakened. This results in devastating consequences to us both as individuals and as members of a civilized society.
I discuss “Ego” and “I”, their inter-relationship and how that affects our ability to exercise free-will, elsewhere on my personal blog. It is summarized here succinctly: “I” mediates between us and reality. It is the ultimate decision-maker within us that allows free-will choices, some of moral and ethical nature, at times going even against our own self-interest, as embodied by the “Ego”. Conversely, the latter is that part of our psyche striving for self-preservation. It does so via various egocentric feelings (like hate, pride, anger, aggression, envy and desire), leading to egocentric actions (like chasing money), ultimately resulting in egocentric outcomes that satisfy ego’s needs (physical needs, like hunger or sex, psychological needs, like the need for security via accumulating property, or social needs, like needs of social benefits or positions of power and control).
What happens to us when reality and temptation, as reflected from the screen, are mixed together so that psychologically distinguishing between them, as we “consume” content delivered by news outlets, becomes ever harder and harder?
A major outcome is that no longer are we able to observe reality clearly and objectively, discerning where reality ends and temptation begins. We start to experience a distorted reality — “Reality” becomes a gigantic seduction. The ultimate decision-maker, “I”, loses its ability to make decisions out of free-will, based on humanistic principles that may be at odds with the “Ego”. “I” no longer control “Ego”, to the contrary, it becomes subjugated to it. A distorted artificial reality forms — “Taking” and “Consuming” become the dominant motivating forces in how we perceive reality and our life within it. Free-will is weakened to become nearly irrelevant. “Optimization” takes over as our major modus operandi.
But mistaking Reality for Seduction and Temptation has a greater, more devastating outcome. Weakening control of “I” over “Ego” increases rates of crime and severity of crime (like mass shooting). When reality no longer is perceived as ruled by ethical principles and humanistic or religious believes (as when “I” dominates) and only experienced as temptation and seduction — egocentric sentiments become main players in our psyche. Thus, when we are angry all else vanish from the conscious screen. Anger then becomes a dominant presence, unchallenged by other emotions or considerations. Mass-shooting thence becomes a highly likely occurrence (at least in some countries, where weapons are easily accessible).
To avoid this confusion, caused by ads bombarding our psyche ad nauseam, certain “arrangements” are sometimes being installed and practiced. In my home country (Israel), advertisement is barred on certain days of the year, either by state law or by free choice. On Memorial Day, dedicated to remembering the Fallen of Israel (in wars or in terrorist actions), mass-media channels refrain from advertisement. The people of Israel then gain the opportunity to solely focus on the reality in which Israel exists, remembering the painful price we had to pay for its survival and for our liberty. On Shabbat (the Jewish holy day of the week), at least one channel in Israel has minimized ads, letting non-religious listeners enjoy Shabbat free of seduction and consumerism.
In Western democracies, current state law and regulation do not acknowledge the correlation between excessive advertisement and increased crime. Therefore, minimal restrictions are placed on advertising on mass-media news outlets, such that could limit the damage caused to the perception of reality both to individuals (mostly the young) and to society at large.
Perhaps it is high time this had changed.