“Communication remains God’s great gift to humanity without which we cannot be truly human, reflecting God’s image.” (Cañaberal, 1993, 44) Freedom of speech is a right of individuals as they possess their own free will. Because of their free will, individuals have expressed their thoughts, desires, and aspirations through the mass media. Communicating freely with other affirms the dignity and worth of each and every member of society. Freedom of expression is essential in the attainment and advancement of knowledge.
Communication brings forth various ideas and information. People today are better informed and more enlightened thanks to thriving press freedom and expanding mass media here and in many parts of the world. All points of view are represented in the “marketplace of ideas” and society benefits from debate about their worth.
“Monkey see, monkey do” has become a well-known saying in today’s society. In addition, this is how media influences society as it leaves a large impact on the individuals.
Media has been considered by Ciony C. Gonzales as “…the most dominant art form….” (1984, 9) as it has an innate power to engage and affect the total person. It leaves a compelling and lasting impact on both the conscious and subconscious (Gonzales, 1984, 9). Though media informs and educates, it also corrupts and exploits, leading it to contribute to the moral degradation of society.
Media’s role in society is to inform, educate, and entertain. It tells the truth and provides positive stimulation that can build up images and reputations the right way (Grantoza, 1993, 31). It can also be a tribunal of justice (Reuter, 1993, n.p.).
Therefore, media has contributed greatly in ways that both enlighten and enrich society, but in other ways have deteriorated and perplexed it. It is not a surprise to learn, then, that media is the most powerful source of information, and nothing else in today’s world influences public perception as heavily.
“Media in the Philippines…is simply a reflection, an outgrowth, a mirror…of society as a whole.” (Benigno, 1993, 6) After all, media has been perceived to have such a large power over people. But, rather than performing its role in society, media today has strayed, having a more negative than positive implication. It backstabs, destroys images and reputations, covers up the truth, stimulates negatively, and imparts the wrong messages. Moreover, people experience a freedom of the press that becomes an avalanche of conflicting information and opinion. It is a freedom which is often misleading. “It confuses even as it is supposed to enlighten, it assails the senses even as it is supposed to refine them, it entertains more than it enlightens, it gossips more than it informs.” (Benigno, 1993, 6)
The right to freedom of expression is being severely tested today as artistic expression is under attack, as some groups seek to impose their morality on the rest of society. Thus, media has become morally and creatively bankrupt. Media shows no values and moral ethics and the content is filled with no other topic but violence and sex.
Consequently, media mirrors society by reflecting it as a society with low morals, with crime, sex, and pornography. It contributes to the national breakdown and the moral degradation of society. It has corrupted and exploited the freedom of the press (Benigno, 1993, 6).
Media teaches by means of vibrations and images that leave a greater effect on the youth (Reuter, 1993, n.p.). People become victims of media’s manipulation as they are being influenced for the worse. Because of the influences that affect the subconscious, all forms of media should be taken more seriously as to avert harmful effects (Gonzales, 1984, 9).
“Media is one-sided. It only cares about money – this is media’s world.” (Cañaberal, 1993, 44) Thus, it corrupts and exploits society, predominantly the youth, by generating an atmosphere of want (Cañaberal, 1993, 44).
Media changes the system of formation by twisting the definition of love. They work on the emotions and feelings of people rather than the intellect and will, creating a more significant impact on the youth (Reuter, 1984, n.p.). The youth are naïve and are more exposed to films that promote extreme violence in action movies, graphic sexual scenes, and vulgar language that brainwash their minds (Deocareza, 1992, 19/23).
Media uses their power in the most constructive ways possible in order to promote ratings and popularity. One way to do that is to concentrate on what sells: sex, violence and disaster. They provide a regular diet of trashy soaps and talk shows, vulgar and violent weekly crime dramas, violent films and weekly action programs, and news magazines which regularly feature stories about the sex industry, pornography and other topics which exploit sex.
Violence is seeping from media to society as it is used in many ways in promos as a hook to draw viewers into the program. That is because violence is an effective promotional device. And, when violence is primarily presented as justified, rewarded, or not punished, it is more likely to encourage aggressive behavior and attitude. Violence results in various crimes such as murder, rape, kidnapping, and assault with a deadly weapon.
Pornography has a negative moral implication that lead to sexually aggressive behavior that cause rape and other heinous sex-related acts (Carson-Arenas, 1999, n.p.) Media justifies this by referring to it as an art form. However, because its purpose or intent is to arouse the people, which may bring serious threats to the public’s health and safety, it becomes pornography and not an art. It is obscene as it lacks serious values, obsessed with sex and/or sexual violence, and offensive material. (Christensen, 1990, 4). “…pornography is just like pollution. It’s not the [sic] always the person who does the polluting who’s hurt by it, but the innocent people around him. Like pollution, it is hazardous to the well being of our families and children. People’s lives are often destroyed by it and when this happens, they become a threat to others.” (Pornography serious threat, studies show, 1999, n.p.). Pornography destroys the morality of society by seriously harming the dignity of people making it a majo social concern of society (Sin, 1999, 6). What is questionable about pornography, then, is its abusive and degrading portrayal of females and female sexuality, not is sexual content and explicitness (Russell, 1998, 9). “Pornography causes rape and incest! Pornography encourages adultery and immorality!” (Tan, 1999, n.p.).
Profanity never has been and never will be a sign of intensity, passion, or caring. It is and always will be an indicator for lacking creativity and intelligence. The use of such words is a symptom of a malaise in the nation. Now, young people use profanity because they think it makes them look like adults. It is a sad reflection on our society that crudity and boorish behavior are regarded as adult (Green, 1997, n.p.).
Though parents teach their children values, there are forces that threaten these values. Media remains to be the strongest among these forces (Viray-Gatmaytan, 1992, 56/57). It leaves a deep and lasting influence by working on the values of the people, becoming a moral vacuum. Present day media is ruining the cherished values by “…presenting false values, corrupting the youth, contributing to political unrest, encouraging crime, violence, loose morals and social unrest; etc.” (Laig, 1984, 10) It shows what is immoral in society in a glamorous light, making it seem not such a bad thing as it is rewarded onscreen.
Media forms values everywhere, not knowing that it is doing so. In addition, these values may sometimes contradict or go against the lessons that have been taught in the classroom or by parents (Reuter, 1992, 40).
For that reason, media should exert an effort to restore the morals of society as it has contributed to some decline to the moral standards, by demonstrating reflection of the different aspects of society (Laig, 1984, 10). Media should provide positive, wholesome programming that promotes and develops Catholic values while enriching and gratifying the hearts of all beliefs. It should be more considerate of the public’s sensibilities and safeguard public morals (CarsonAranas, 1999, n.p.). It should provide tools and information to assist the creative community to be more socially responsible without relinquishing creative freedoms. Media should improve practices concerning various issues affecting children and society at large. Lastly, media should ensure the development of society both psychologically and morally as well as promoting media’s role in the value and social formation (Deocanreza, 1992, 19/23).
“Media is like a bread knife and it is also like a shank. If we don not control media, it controls us. In media, there is no decision-maker, no direction. Media is the most deadly and at the same time the most beneficial force in the world.” (Reuter, 1993, n.p.)
For these reasons, it can be said that until a positive link can be found between the corruption in the media and the decline of morals, it will remain that violence, pornography, and profanity is a contribution of media’s exploitation towards society (Howitt, 1975, n.p.). Media causes people to indulge in violence by means of internet, comics and television are capable of sustaining long term side effects, which in turn, threatens the morality of society.
Because media has destroyed some values, it therefore should repair some of the damage by educating at the same time entertaining (Conde, 1992, 19). Mass media can have a very negative effect on society, but with the support of parents and a little control, the media can be turned into a beneficial tool rather than negative impact. The majority of people should also extend their precautions and practice self-censorship whenever possible to reduce the impact of media corruption and exploitation.
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Reuter, Fr. James. “Media and Values.” Media Watch, January 1993, pp. 40.
Russell, Diana E.H. Dangerous Relationships. Berkeley: Sage Press, 1998.
Viray-Gatmaytan. “Values – Where Art Thou?.” Life Today, June 1992, pp. 56-57.
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