Schaeffer on Television Media and Elections

In 1981, Francis Schaeffer scratched his head over two questions about the prevailing emphasis of secular humanism (man is the measure of all things) in the dominant forms of news reporting.

(1) Why did the anti-abortion worldview get ignored and downplayed?

(2) How has secular media (and especially television) played such an incredibly powerful role in the political process?

Schaeffer then scratched out A Christian Manifesto (here quoting from his Works, 5:447–50).

First on the abortion question, he came to understand:

If we are going to make judgments on any such subject we must not get our final judgments uncritically from media that see things from this perspective [humanism] and see it that way honestly. Most of the media do not have to be dishonest to slide things in their own direction because they see through the spectacles of a finally relativistic set of ethical personal and social standards.

On the second question, he simply came to this reality:

The media and especially television have indeed changed the perception of not only current events, but also of the political process. We must realize that things can easily be presented on television so that the perception of a thing may be quite different from fact itself. Television not only reports political happenings, it enters actively into the political process. That is, either because of bias or for a good story, television so reports the political process that it influences and becomes a crucial part of the political process itself. . . .

We must realize that the communications media function much like the unelected federal bureaucracy. They are so powerful that they act as if they were the fourth branch of government in the United States. Charles Peters, editor-in-chief of The Washington Monthly, in his book How Washington Really Works, writes that the media, instead of exposing the “make believe” of the federal government, are “part of the show.”

Television (and the communications media in general) thus are not only reporting news, but making it.

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