Brainwashing Media

Make no mistake: we are being brainwashed by the media that we consume.

(This post isn’t on faith, but it seems appropriate to acknowledge the Bible warns of such: ‘The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!’ (Matthew 6:22-23)).

In the not too-distant past I watched an action movie on Netflix called Wolf Warrior II. It’s an action movie set in Africa. The core difference however is that it is a Chinese action movie. All of the heroes in the story are Chinese. The Chinese are building the infrastructure of Africa; they are boosting the economy and being friendly to the locals. When the bad guys (Westerners, mostly American) show up it’s the Chinese embassy that protects the African civilians.

Of course the Chinese are known for their philanthropic benevolence with minority groups. Well, I guess technically a million Uyghurs aren’t a small minority, so the fact they’re in prison re-education camps doesn’t matter. Nor am I referring to torture or prisoner organ harvesting. Heck, they do look after their own people well… if by ‘look after’ we really mean scrutinise dictatorially.

Wolf Warrior II was a clear and blatant propaganda piece, I suspect directed at helping with the China Belt-and-Road initiative in Africa. Swallow one tablet per day and if the delusions fade, take two.

More recently I was watching Designated Survivor. The first time I watched this show, I stopped early in the first season due to the obvious left-leaning nature of the show. When season 3 was released I thought I’d give it another go – there was an interesting subplot I was curious about. I watched the first two seasons, managing to overlook the political agenda.

Until I hit Season 3. Or should I say, season 3 hit me as subtly-as-a-brick-to-the-face.

On the third episode we find out the President’s deceased wife has a transgender sibling, Sasha (male to female, transition unspecified). I’m all for nuanced social debate and this can occur through TV shows (though I would argue not all shows are appropriate, nor is sport). But nuanced is the important keyword here. Don’t show only one side of an issue. Show all sides fairly and respectfully and let the audience make up their mind. It’s a hard balance to achieve, I admit that, but at least try for balance. Don’t preach at us Hollywood; you are not our moral betters. (Quite the opposite, often).

From a writing perspective the way in which they did it was deeply flawed to. First, the minor issue: Implausibly Sasha had been kept out of the spotlight until now due to privacy. Really? A President’s transgender in-law had been either hidden or all of the press gallery had shown unusual restraint? And Kirkman and his wife have never discussed her brother/sister even when alone? It’s a failure of good screen play writing.

If they wanted a transgender character they could have introduced Sasha in a far better way. If a family member, have Kirkman “discover” a previously unknown family member. Make it a step-family, a niece or nephew or a non-biological ‘extended family’ member. The point is, make them so distant as to not be newsworthy, while still close enough to still warrant an emotional connection. Better yet, in my opinion, have them be non-family, and introduce them in an event which creates an emotional bond. Kirkman’s wife has recently died. Have the transgender character be a teacher who was especially supportive to the daughter. There were so many better ways than a previously unknown close-family member suddenly appearing. Introduce them a few times early season 3 with a few in-scene shots and then late in the season they can plausibly take a larger role in an episode.

The worst part is the context they brought this character into. It is honestly so bad it’s cringe-worthy. It is self-defeating, an own-goal, and I’d argue demonstrates the stupidity of the politically-correct viewpoint of equality and relativism. It almost sends out invitations to be mocked.

The context: Penny Kirkman, the President’s young daughter experiences her first period. Having lost his wife recently to a drunk driver, the President doesn’t know quite how to broach the subject. Kirkman mentions Penny’s period to Sasha and this is how the conversation unfolds:

Sasha: “I’d be happy to speak with her if you like?”
Kirkman: “I don’t know…, I can-”
Sasha: “That’s OK. You’re correct. I didn’t actually go through it myself. It only felt like I did… but that’s the whole point. But don’t you think that she’d be more comfortable discussing it with someone who… looks like me rather than like you.”
Kirkman: “Yeah you’re right. Thank you.”

Okaaaay. So the President doesn’t know how to address the topic with his daughter. He doesn’t turn to her grandmother. He doesn’t turn to his long-term and highly-trusted female former chief-of-Staff. Or any of the other females in his personal or professional life. He thinks it’s a good idea to turn to someone who admits they haven’t experienced it, but feels as though they have.

And feeling like experiencing it ‘is the whole point’? Um, no. If I’m finding something embarrassing or confronting I’d like to talk to someone who has experienced it. I want to hear about their experiences, and the strategies and tips that might help me dealing with it in the future. I might have questions and I want them to be able to answer them from a position of wisdom and experience. Not feeling.

And if that was the most convincing rationale the writer’s could come up with, they really should have let the idea percolate longer.

So Designated Survivor this is where I find something better to watch. You won’t be missed.

The Cost and Value of Integrity

A few months ago US Vice President Mike Pence was attacked by much of the US media and commentary for what has become known as “The Pence Rule”.

During his 12 years in Congress, Pence had rules to avoid any infidelity temptations, or even rumors of impropriety. Those included requiring that any aide who had to work late to assist him be male, never dining alone with a woman other than his wife, and not attending an event where alcohol is served unless Karen was there.

In a 2002 interview with The Hill, Pence called it, “building a zone around your marriage.”

Source: The Washington Post.

For this comment Mike Pence faced a chorus of howling complaints (and a few cheers).

Mike Pence should be honoured by the fact that the media took to calling it the “Pence rule”. I suspect it fit the desired narrative for the attackers to target Pence than someone whose character was less impeachableFrom The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham,

“We all knew evangelists who had fallen into immorality while separated from their families by travel,” Billy wrote. “We pledged among ourselves to avoid any situation that would have even the appearance of compromise or suspicion. From that day on, I did not travel, meet, or eat alone with a woman other than my wife…”

It may seem quaint and impractical in this day of casual relationships between the sexes to be so rigid about meeting with someone of the opposite sex – but it worked for Billy and his team. They eliminated any suspicion of problems. While on the road, the team travelled together and occupied adjoining hotel rooms, or at least rooms in close proximity. By not travelling along, they minimized temptations. And each team member committed to never being alone with a woman who was not his wife. (page 55).

Plenty of people were willing to attack Pence, not so many Graham… I wonder why?

There’s a few points I’d like to make:

This is Mike Pence’s personal rule. Let me repeat that: personal. Though I know of others who follow it (or variants), no one is trying to make it law (at least not in Western countries). It’s a decision that he’s made to protect himself, his wife and his marriage. Not to mention all the women potentially involved, their children, spouses, wider families and their friends.

It’s a smart rule. I think it is a smart rule for anyone. For a politician, in the public and never-blinking eye, I’m willing to say it’s dumb not to embrace some pretty strict rules. Yes, technically before a court of law you’re innocent until proven guilty, but for a politician where perception is reality, everyone has a camera and can tweet their unverified rumours and get a thousand re-tweets within seconds… can anyone really argue it’s not a smart move?

There’s a reason. Men know the kind of thoughts that run through their brains. Very few women truly understand this; we are just so different. The very first glimmer of sexual attraction often starts visually for men. It doesn’t matter if we’ve never talked to you, or your values and views are polar-opposites to ours. If you’re attractive, we are likely to notice.

That doesn’t mean bad behaviour on our part is acceptable or unavoidable. It is possible for us to reign in our thoughts and control our eyes so we aren’t just a bunch of drooling neanderthals. However, that self-control means sometimes we’re going to implement rules for ourselves which you just can’t comprehend or see the need for. You need to understand: this thing is on a hair-trigger.

But the rule isn’t there because, “if I dine alone with a woman an affair is a certainty.” That isn’t the case, but as acknowledged by Willard Harley in “His Needs, Her Needs – Building an Affair-Proof Marriage” affairs often start out as “just being friends”. As Pence said, it’s a “zone around his marriage”. Think of it like a fire-break. You build and maintain the fire-break to protect what you have in the event of a fire.

As blogger Tim Challies notes,

The Billy Graham Rule is not a universal law mandated by the Bible, but a personal rule mandated by conscience. It is not a biblical law but an attempt to flesh out a biblical principle (sexual purity and/or being seen as above reproach). Many will follow the Rule according to their best understanding of how to ensure they are honoring God. In so doing they will be heeding their conscience…

Some complained that it disadvantaged women, because they would be excluded from important informal times at work. Yes, sadly that’s a likely effect. But the rule does cuts both ways (even if, disproportionally) – men can’t have lunches with their female bosses. But if we were going to make things entirely fair, should we also put a stop to the smoking circle? What about those who play sport or run together, doesn’t that disadvantage the disabled?

The world isn’t fair and people don’t get treated equally. Not every player wins a prize and sometimes your skills won’t be acknowledged. That’s life. It’s unfair that we can read and some in the world can’t, should we stop reading?

Besides, it’s not an insurmountable problem. The wise boss would make time to invest in all his staff. Meetings could be one-on-one, but in a public place, or behind closed doors, with the blinds open. The application of a boundary doesn’t mean that men and women aren’t going to talk to each other any more.

There is a cost of integrity. In some parts of the world that cost is death but for us in the West it is more often just ridicule. Mike Pence felt it and so do others. They look strange. They are accused of things which are untrue and unfair. They pay the cost, because they know the value. Pence is protecting his integrity, his wife and the marriage they have built together. He made a commitment to her and is doing whatever it takes to keep that commitment.

You remember ‘commitment’ right? Doctors doing no harm, journos reporting the truth and politicians serving the people? If only we had more of it.