Media Blight and the Dehumanizing of America

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This impassioned critique of contemporary mass culture argues that the media, particularly television as the spearhead of electronic communications technology, contributes to the pervasive demoralization of the American public. By stimulating the public with an endless stream of enticing, essentially unattainable illusions, the media produce what William K. Shrader calls the experiential bind, a phenomenon rooted in the incongruity between the two juxtaposed realms of vicarious and firsthand experience. The internalized bind causes a chronically irritated self-ideal discrepancy, producing morbid guilt. This condition is familiar to mental health specialists, and is frequently invoked to explain the erratic and socially destructive behavior patterns of the mentally ill. Following a brief introduction, Chapter 1 describes the experiential bind and the media's imagery of unreality. This imagery is analyzed from two essential aspects: (1) the imagery of fantasy, which predominates in prime time network entertainment programming on television and in the majority of Hollywood movies; and (2) the imagery of doom, which predominates on television news programs shown in large cities across America every evening of the week. Chapter 2 is an elaboration of psychodynamic considerations, specifically, how both aspects of unreality affect such human characteristics as self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and narcissism. Chapter 3 continues with societal reverberations, including loss of community involvement and rampant consumerism. Chapter 4 turns to rehabilitation and prevention, drawing on Shrader's experience as a clinical psychologist and therapist-counselor. Chapter 5 is concerned with the emergence of a technological society and its contribution to materialism in America. The final chapter presents concluding thoughts, involving especially the author's theme that hedonistic materialism is America's Achilles Heel. Media Blight and the Dehumanizing of America is suitable for the general reader, and will be particularly useful to scholars of social/behavioral and clinical psychology, and mass communications.