News or Yellow Journalism?

News or Yellow Journalism?

Up early this morning, feeding Bella, my mother-in-law had the tv on while she was getting ready to go to work. The morning news show had one of those typical stories they use to fill in on a slow news day. They went around to a bunch of hotels and requested a crib and then critiqued the cribs they got. There were some really bad ones: nails poking out, ripped mattress covers, bottoms that fell out, broken hinges, adult bed sheets instead of fitted crib sheets, a porta-crib that had been recalled sometime in the 90s.

But my question was this: how often do they receive requests for these cribs from guests? My guess is not very often. All the parents I know travel with their own play yards or portacribs. So are these cribs in such poor shape simply because they are not really needed? Why can’t reporters ask these questions? Maybe because the answer would point up that the story isn’t really news at all. My guess is that no children are being endangered by these shoddy cribs because no parents are using them. But I’ll never know because the reporters aren’t interested in telling the whole story, only in scare tactics meant to alarm and upset.

This is why I don’t watch tv news.

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  • I think Brown’s assertion that evil is not an absence of good is premature. The nature of evil of either a deprivation or a “thing” is not settled Church doctrine and I have seen many debates among philosophers and theologians on the nature of evil.

    Also, does O’Brien provide proof that in Western, i.e. Judeo-Christian, culture, dragons have always been bad? Yes, in Revelations 12 we read about the great red dragon waiting to devour the child of the woman clothed with the sun, but where does the dragon as evil originate? What is the root?

    Are symbols always immutable? The Christmas tree began as a pagan symbol which was baptized by Christians and approved by the Church, but approval came after use. There are many other pagan symbols that were baptized.

    Many pagan religions worshipped bulls. Should we never have stories in which bulls are good characters?

    I’m sympathetic to O’Brien’s thesis, but I wonder if it’s a little extreme. Certainly C.S Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien baptized many pagan elements such as satyrs and wizards and nyads (the Ents?) and dryads (characters in the Silmarillion) and so on.

  • First, Dragons are not universally seen as evil symbols (see Far-Eastern examples in Japanese and Chinese mythology). 

    Second, shouldn’t context be a key indicator in discovering the meaning of symbols?  Certainly, symbols import meaning.  But what meaning?  Thus context is very important.  What may have been a matter-of-fact about dragons in biblical times does not hold the same for today’s context.  We have a different understanding of nature and the universe, more scientific so-to-speak.  While superstition and ignorance continue to some degree, what a dragon meant to a Christian in the 1st century will mean something different for a Christian in the 21st century.  Thus, our moral context is quite different and it is not so easy to transfer the meaning of a symbol from two thousand years ago to today. 

    A good example from Christianity concerns the symbols of the sheep and shepherd.  For today’s modern age of technology and suburban life, most people have no contact with sheep or shepherds unless they visit a petting zoo.  The meaning of the symbols of sheep and shepherd are not all lost because of our historical continuity and the great writings of the past.  But these symbols no longer have the impact they may once have had to Galilean ears of two thousand years ago.

    This brings me to my last point – original intent.  I have not read O’Brien’s book, but it seems that he holds a view that the original intent of the symbol should dominate its’ meaning.  Such a view is naive if everything I have said so far makes sense.  There is no way to recapture that original intent of the symbol.  Our moral context is different from those times.  We have only fragments of those moral climates. 

    Thus, we should have no problem “baptizing” symbols that are not Christian in order to use them for Christian purposes.  A great example of using the symbol of a dragon is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader from the The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.  Lewis makes a stunning and beautiful symbolic representation of the cleansing away of selfishness through grace and baptism, and the restoration of a new life through the imagery of the dragon and scales and so forth. 

    I finish this post on a question – what other symbols that are evil does O’Brien consider?

  • First, Dragons are not universally seen as evil symbols (see Far-Eastern examples in Japanese and Chinese mythology).

    To be fair, I think O’Brien would respond that he’s thinking of the symbols within a Judeo-Christian context, because he’s talking about raising Catholic kids.

    On your other points, I think they are valid and bear thinking about.

  • I ound your post quite interesting. With a 5 month old it is definately a topic my husband and I have in mind.

    One thing that would concern me would be taking a conception I have based on symbolism and applying it to something my children know only in innocence. IOW, just because western civilization used to consider the dragon as a symbol for evil, the simple fact it isn’t always regarded that way would incline me not to corrupt her innocent enjoyment of Pete’s Dragon or Puff the Magic Dragon or Disney’s Mulan? Symbolism always goes deeper than innocent irst perception. I would think teaching children about symbolism and what such things as dragons can or usually but not always symbolize once they are old enough to understand it would educate them without forming B&W absolute representations in their minds from the beginning.

  • I like O’Brien’s categories as you’ve described them, but I think he misreads the books you’ve mentioned. (It’s possible to have problems with L’Engle?  Seriously?  Whoa.)

    For example, “naming” evil doesn’t imply a mere absence of good—an absence can’t have a name attached to it.  Recognizing evil for it is—calling a spade a spade, if you will—and refusing to be decieved by it can be quite a powerful tool against evil.

    And symbolism in literature depends on context.  Symbols are not immutable.  If memory serves, St. Augustine discusses this re: the Bible in his On Christian Teaching.  We always have to look at the symbol as it’s being used.  Friendly dragons are not necessarily a subversion.  The Pern dragons, for example, are still quite dangerous, and they must be related to in the proper way or the frail human becomes toast.  And it’s been forever since I watched Pete’s Dragon, but doesn’t Eliot breathe fire?

  • My reply gre to be too long for this space. I’ll post it as a new blog entry. I hope this interesting discussion continues.

  • I think that the issue of “baptizing” symbols needs some clarifying. Is there anything that was considered evil by pagans that the Church baptized into a good symbol? I can’t think of any.

    The dragon in the Dawn Treader was not a symbol of good. It was a symbol of greed and selfishness. Lewis wasn’t trying to change the symbolism of dragons, he was using it in its known context.

    The issue of wizards, etc. in Tolkien is equally as clear. From reading the Silmarillion, the “wizards” were angels and the various other mythical creatures were never used out of their historic context of good and evil. Orcs are bad. Goblins are bad. Dragons are bad. Magic in the hands of humans is bad.

    I would also submit that our current culture’s ignorance of symbolic history is no reason to assume that the alteration of the status of ancient symbols is acceptable.