This is the first of a series of blogs relating to peace and justice issues occurring in my community and around the world. The first class of my “Peace and Justice Issues” course was dedicated to the power of the media in letting us know what is happening [I used Noam Chomsky for this]. On the eve of this class eight journalists were murdered in Paris, France. What a chilling introduction to the issue. This event raised the issues of freedom of speech and the power of the pen. The nature of Charlie Hebdo magazine, combined with the controversy surrounding the release of The Interview before Christmas, raised an additional issue for me in regards to the use of satire and humor. I am generally not easily offended by sacrilegious humor and satire but I wonder if it is possible for it to degenerate into hate literature. I cannot speak for others, but as a Jesus follower it is important for me to me to treat all people with respect as fellow image bearers of God. It is easier not to when the people I am speaking about are unknown to me, very different from me, or are doing things I find deeply disturbing or reprehensible. Yet Jesus definitely pointed people out in harsh ways when they were promoting injustice or self-interest. Journalists, cartoonists, movie makers, poets, novelists, and other artists do well when they do the same but there is that line I wonder about.
It is an interesting phenomenon in this modern world where we know what is going on in other parts of the world within seconds of its happening. Being more aware has potential for good or ill. Positively, it can help us to be more compassionate towards others and to pray for people who are suffering. One of the disciplines I am attempting to practice is to “pray through the news.” Negatively, it can cause us to be afraid of others or desensitized to others when we see them only as non-human characters. What is it about us that we are glued to the screen when the plot includes terror and suffering?
And of course, there are news filters. The news is delivered to us by corporations trying to make money. We are aware that each news source comes from someone’s perspective. This is why I like the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: it is a broadcaster that is owned by the people of Canada and supported by our taxes. The reputation of most state owned media around the world is that the government carefully controls all content. The pleasant irony with the CBC is that they often seem to be more critical of our government than some other news sources! Perhaps this is why our present government has made so many cutbacks to the CBC but I think this says something very positive about our country and this news source. Not all are so fortunate.