Feel Like A Civil War Is Coming? You’re Supposed To.

antietam-140324_1280Do you feel like the world is going crazy? You’re supposed to feel that way.

News corporations make gazillions exploiting our fears and making us angry. They make their videos dramatic and attractive so we will keep watching and scrolling and clicking. The “news” about a coming civil war is a tragic example.

The media is specially designed to manipulate our emotions by people who profit from our division and discontent. And it’s having real world consequences. It’s leading us to make decisions that many of us regret, losing the freedom and purpose and peace that we all could otherwise experience.

Neil Postman knew all this in the 1980’s. His prophetic book Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business should be required reading for anyone who wants to avoid being manipulated by media.

Postman found the News to be among the most insidious forms of media manipulation, primarily because it is presented through a medium (television) that does not encourage rational thought, but is all about stirring up our emotions. He wrote before social media, where we perpetuate irrational, emotional arguments by the petabyte.

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YouTube Kids Isn’t The Babysitter You’re Looking For

Boy Staring At A Phone
CC0 Creative Commons Attribution / by Andi Graf

Parents: If there was a cute, colorful, friendly robot that would babysit your kids for free, would you use it?

What if the robot was programmable by people around the world, so that anyone could teach it new games to play with your kids?

What if a company like Google offered this amazing robot, promising that an algorithm would make sure the user-submitted games were “family friendly?”

Then, what if you heard that some user-submitted games were sneaking through their filters, teaching the robot to play games that would scare your kids, encourage sexual practices or self-harm, or even put their lives at risk?

Well, if you’d still like use such a robot, you don’t need to wait. YouTube Kids is on your phone, ready to babysit your kids with Google-powered algorithms designed to protect your kids.

Don’t worry. Only a small fraction of kids might see their PAW Patrol friends become hypnotized by a demon-possessed doll and commit suicide by walking off a roof. Or see Mickey Mouse laying in a pool of blood after being hit by a car. Or Spider-Man peeing on Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. Or Nickelodeon characters visiting a strip club. Or a live-action “family playing roughly with a young girl, including a scene in which her forehead is shaved, causing her to wail and appear to bleed.”

Those are just a few of the videos that have slipped through Google’s algorithmic babysitter documented in a recent New York Times article.

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You Are Not Your Feelings

thermometer-1584773_1920

Everyone’s heard this cultural mantra: our feelings define our identity. According to pop-culture wisdom, truth itself is created and validated by our feelings. We must listen to and act upon our emotions, as they are the most authentic part of who we are. Just think back to the most popular psalm of the cultural doctrine-defining movie, Frozen.

Elsa couldn’t hold back her feelings because they were the truest part of her identity. The story shows her parents reacting to her powers with the untenable command: “conceal, don’t feel.” When Elsa finally “can’t hold it back anymore,” she releases the “real her,” full of power and glamor and no limits. What an attractive message!

The problem? It’s just not true.
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Hatching A Risky New Desire

Copyright: 3m3 / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: 3m3 / 123RF Stock Photo

Is 2016’s newest holiday toy craze a Trojan horse Penguala, threatening to ensnare millions of unsuspecting children?

Kids worldwide are begging Santa to bring them clever, cute, and harmless-looking toys called Hatchimals. Following similarly hyped interactive toys like Furby and Tamagotchi, Hatchimals simulate a real, ongoing relationship with their young owners.

With stores running very low on supplies of Hatchimals, the online auction market is seeing prices range from $150-$500+ for these ordinarily $50 toys. What is driving this incredible demand? What has hatched the desire in so many kids that drives their parents to blow their budget for the latest fad?

Before Christmas comes, will there be violence in the aisles over whether your child gets Owlicorn or Draggles?

On the surface, Hatchimals seem sweet, innocent, and harmless. As a dad of four grown daughters, I think my girls would have enjoyed one of these lovable toys, and I may have wanted to give them one.

However, the hidden risk of following the Hatchimals craze is the loss of your child’s ability to freely think for themselves, to become all they are made to be, and to apply their God-given gifts to help meet the world’s great needs.

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Where Are Your Desires Leading You?

cereal-fruity-pebbles
By Evan-Amos (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I can remember wanting Fruity Pebbles for breakfast as a child. The Flintstone family, from the 60’s-era cartoon, were my frequent TV friends, and they loved Fruity Pebbles. So of course, I loved them too. On the rare occasion that my Mom bought them, I devoured bowl after bowl. As a kid, I never connected how yucky I felt an hour or two after eating sugary cereal. I just knew I wanted those tasty Pebbles, and that’s all that mattered.

Why did I want that cereal? Was it because it was good for me? Certainly not. (There is no fruit in Fruity Pebbles—it’s debatable whether it’s even food.) Would it give me the ability to meet my 7-year-old goals of being able to run faster or play longer? Not in my experience.

I think I wanted Pebbles for two reasons: my favorite TV characters loved them, and professionals intentionally engineered the ingredients to attract me. In fact, we now know the addictive properties of sugar makes us want more of something that is actually enslaving us.
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