Beware the “Brain Hackers”: Get Your News from More than One Source–Especially Today

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila

“Get Your News from More than One Source”

My father was a man of few but memorable words of advice. One directive of his I often think of in this era of truncated news whizzing by at the speed of a finger swipe, is,  “Get your news from more than one source.” He advocated becoming aware of all sides of an issue before applying critical thinking.

Of course in his day, Dad referenced only print, radio, or television media. Nowadays there are numerous additional sources, most notably, social media…

This past week, the U.S. Congress began hearings to address the virtually unchecked power Big Tech companies have assumed over speech, that is, the power to squelch speech of a certain political bent.

Maybe the hearings will help rein in some of their heretofore unregulated power that has such an influence on not so much how people think but what they think, influence wielded, as it is, by both commission and omission.

But whether or not the young lords of technology are ultimately held accountable, a much bigger issue is at stake: the power they have to addict see-ers and hearers to the medium of information transmission itself, no matter what is broadcast–or what is left out.

Marshall McLuhan, famous in the field of “media theory,”  put it this way: “The medium is the message,” meaning, “the nature of a medium (the channel through which a message is transmitted) is more important than the meaning or content of the message” (source).

In other words, regardless of what is broadcast, the means of broadcasting, i.e., how the words, images, and sounds are programmed to penetrate eyes, ears, minds, and hearts is the most potent of all of the elements of communication. For a classic example of this phenomenon, we all know how important nonverbal communication is.

To be more specific, and to bring nonverbal mechanisms up to date, think of how a medium can keep us addicted to itself by means of bells and whistles, flashes and sparkles, dings and buzzes–tempting us, now, 24/7.

Such mechanisms are so addicting, just to get a “hit”, so to speak, we might not even notice that certain key pieces of information, critical even, are left out of what’s whizzing past! So addicting we hardly access any other media at all, transfixed, as it were, by the carefully programmed phones and pods and computers…

Perhaps the best explanation of how we become addicted–and without hardly noticing–is presented in the following 2017 “60 Minutes” broadcast moderated by Anderson Cooper.

This, in my view, is a “must see” in the modern world.

Particularly where social media wields such influence during, say, an election season.

They’re powerful indeed, those tech lords, programmers, information gate keepers, and influence peddlers.

But so is Dad’s advice.

Beware the Medium

See what you think.


News media word cloud source.

Image of woman using iphone source.


This entry was posted in 2020, Commentaries, most recent posts and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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