The Myth of News

September 16, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Myth/Story, Society

Jung wrote extensively on the relationship between myth and culture and how that relationship reveals a dynamic similar to the association between dream and the individual.  Joseph Campbell offered four primary purposes of myth.  Researchers have posited many ways that dreams keep us healthy.  It has been suggested that dream and myth are but stories along a single continuum, not unlike the continuum of practitioners seeking to interpret these stories, arcing from counselor to psychotherapist to spiritual guide.

Our times are not characterized by the sharing of universal myths, though some do surface during holidays.  Our culture is becoming powerfully informed by a universality of story, compelling “news” that commands the airwaves for days or months.  In just the way that dreams reveal, wrestle with and heal the divisions that emerge while experiencing life, these media stories act as windows for interpreters to view the forces that society is seeking to face, assimilate and transcend.

A therapist does not live with the person whose dreams are being interpreted.  The practitioner addresses the client’s distress from a position or context somewhat removed, with clear boundaries.  There is a suggestion that when interpreting the news or stories broadcast by the media, the practitioner can best perform his or her translation from some distance.  Media commentary that I observe reads like psychotherapist interpretations written while living with the patient, commenting constantly on the relationship.  Professional boundaries have disappeared.  We need a discipline devoted to media production interpretation, a discipline with some distance.

Just as there are numerous developmental and intervention models to guide a psychotherapist on a treatment, there are conventions used by specialists in comparative religion when exploring the meaning of myths.  I’m not yet seeing similar techniques being applied to what emerges from the evening news.  What we are offered by the news and media is clearly arbitrary when evaluating what information would best inform a populace to provide a context to make decisions about the world.  News is not about news.  News is about a combination of what news creators believe we want to see/hear and what news creators want us to see/hear.

I’m suggesting that viewing and listening to the news, shows and commercials is like viewing and listening to the dreams in a patient living a life filled with conflicting emotions in difficult times.  It’s time we developed some interpretive tools.

A place to begin is by exploring the battling neurologies, psychologies, physiologies and mythologies of the converging and merging social structures of modern times:  patriarchal and matriarchal.  Viewing content from those two perspectives provides insight, for example, on the difference between Fox and Moyers.  We would also do well to consider the influence of sex, status and sexual selection on what we experience when exposed to news, shows and commercials.

Jung and Campbell only indirectly addressed the influence of biology on society.  To understand modern myth, biology would be a good place to begin.


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