How the Media Made Homosexuality Mainstream
by Rod Dreher
Most people, when they think of media bias, believe that the news media set out to tell people what to think. I work for a mainstream daily newspaper, and except for a year in which I worked for National Review magazine, have been a newspaperman my entire career, and I must tell you that in my experience, the media—the entertainment media as well as the news media—are rarely that intentional. The bias more often comes in setting the parameters of debate.
Here’s what I mean. Every media product—every newspaper or television report, every movie, every TV show, and so forth—is shaped by choices made by the creators, producers, and editors. Those choices will inevitably reflect the judgment of those creators, not only about what’s right and what’s wrong, but more fundamentally, about what constitutes the range of acceptable opinion.
I’ll give you a positive example of how this works. As a child in a small Southern town in the 1970s, I came up in a culture deeply imbued with racist values. Everything about the local culture reinforced the belief that blacks and whites were to be separate, and that blacks were inferior. Not even church was immune; while I was never taught racist values in Sunday school, nothing we heard there challenged the prevailing racist mentality. Indeed, our Methodist church nearly split in 1980 over the question of allowing black folks to come see a performance there (happily, the racists did not prevail).
The only place—and I mean the only place—to find an alternative view to the racist orthodoxy was on television. It was through TV that I learned how wrong racism was. We never saw our values—that is, racist values—presented on television, except to be harshly criticized. I can remember hearing older people complaining about how TV was undermining our values by showing “race-mixing” and depicting black people in a positive light.
These people were absolutely correct: TV was undermining those values by pipelining in the more humane values of the world outside our little Southern enclave. Today, you can go to my hometown and find it a much more congenial and sensible place in terms of race relations. For that I credit television.
If only it had stopped there. Today you can go to my hometown and also find the same social and familial destruction that has washed over America since the 1960s, most especially the same sexual chaos and resulting family breakdown. My sister, who teaches elementary school in our hometown, told me a couple of years ago that I would scarcely grasp what she deals with in terms of children struggling emotionally, and in turn academically, to hold their lives together amid the instability their parents’ divorces and infidelities have brought into their lives.
My town is the kind of quaint place people escape to from the big city to find a good place to raise their kids. But there is no escaping the values of the media. Most everyone in my town invited them virtually unrestricted into their homes a generation or so ago, and allowed the media a free hand in raising their children. You see the results today, there and everywhere in this country.
Rod Dreher is a contributing editor to Touchstone. He is a senior editor and blogger at the American Conservative and author of How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History’s Greatest Poem, The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, and Live Not by Lies: A Survival Manual for Christian Dissidents. He is Eastern Orthodox and lives with his wife, Julie, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They have three children.
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