"For us let it be enough to know ourselves to be in the place where God wants us, and carry on our work, even though it be no more than the work of an ant, infinitesimally small, and with unforeseeable results."
-- Abbé Monchanin

Monday, May 28, 2007

"A Face in the Crowd"

I stumbled across the movie "A Face in the Crowd" on Turner Classic Movies Saturday. Since I was born in Piggot, Arkansas where the movie was filmed in part and where the story started, and had gone to 1/2 year of 7th grade there, I watched it to see the old town. The town square and "Spit 'n' Whittle Club" looked just as it did when I visited my grandparents there and when I briefly lived there.

The movie was a flop when it was first made. I think it was because no one wanted to see Andy Griffith as the bad guy. We like to think of him today as Andy Taylor of Mayberry or Ben Matlock, both good guys. Maybe it failed because Andy Griffith is supposed to be a funny and this movie has a serious message.

In the movie Andy Griffith's character goes from drunken vagabond to maker of public opinion via the power of radio and most of all television. An amiable character realizes the power he wields to shape public opinion and loses himself to that power.

The makers of the movie wanted to point out the dangers of the media, in particular television. The public is so easily swayed by television personalities who have no credentials for informing public opinion.

Television today is living up to that prediction. A once solid news channel, CNN, now spends more time on Paris Hilton's and Lindsay Lohan's latest escapades than on the genocide in Darfur. Death in the Congo and in Zimbabwe are almost unmentioned. The sordid life and death of Anna Nicole Smith is investigated more thoroughly than the privatization of the war in Iraq where U.S. businesses are raiding the tax coffers as they build small armies to provide security for their businesses that make profits providing logistical support for the U.S. military.

These and other unqualified "celebrities" shape the thoughts and culture of a nation. They corrupt our youth and convince us to like it. (I won't begin to speak of the "rap" culture.) Pat Robertson and James Dobson use the airwaves to repeat their ideas and sway thousands of voters to march to their drummer in support of the politicians who buy them with promises of access and power in the marble hallways of Washington.

If you get a chance, watch "A Face in the Crowd" and look for clues to what's happening. You won't enjoy the movie much. But you'll have to admit, we were warned.

Now, think independently. (That is unless you're Southern Baptist. "Independent thinkers" is an epithet Jerry Rankin used to slander missionaries who refused to sign the Baptist Faith and Message as a creedal statement in 2003.)

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