One of my Twitter followers, Matthew, directed me to a new article posted yesterday by Christian apologist Natasha Crain titled “How Mainstream Media Gaslights Christians (and Everyone Else Who Disagrees with Them).” In the article, Crain points out that the “mainstream media” is biased. While that is true as far as it goes, Crain doesn’t go far enough. The problem isn’t “mainstream media” per se, but rather media as such. Crain’s failure to recognize this fact critically hampers her own analysis and offers a salutary warning to the rest of us.
First, let’s take a moment to discuss the term “mainstream media.” This term is popular among American conservatives who use it rhetorically to apply to media that it deemed not to align with conservative beliefs and values. Crain attacks three bastions of “mainstream media” in her article: CNN, Washington Post, and Associated Press.
The irony of the terminology is that Fox News is, by viewership, the largest and most “mainstream” of all US television news channels. What is more, Fox is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, a vast media empire which has assets exceeding fourteen billion dollars and includes the iconic Wall Street Journal (US), The Sun and The Times (UK) and the publisher HarperCollins.
Alas, Crain does not even acknowledge the extent to which Fox News, News Corp, or right wing media in general likewise are subject to bias which can affect their reporting. This is highly problematic.
If Crain really is concerned about the mainstream corporate media, I suggest she turn a critical eye onto the impact of News Corp on shaping her own worldview and perhaps consider watching non-corporate, listener funded Democracy Now! instead. Now that’s media that really is outside the mainstream.
Anyway, from this point forward, I will drop the tendentious terminology “mainstream media” and instead substitute it with the admittedly unwieldy (but far more accurate) phrase “media conservatives like Crain don’t agree with” because that’s the actual rhetorical function of the term in this context.
My next concern is that Crain accuses all the media she doesn’t agree with of “gaslighting.” This charge is confused at best, defamatory at worst. The act of gaslighting is predatory behavior in which an abuser acts with intentionality to get a potential victim to question their own reality, often by manipulating aspects of their environment. If you literally believe that all media that disagrees with you is thereby seeking to gaslight you then you are flatly delusional.
The reality is that whether you are employed by the Wall Street Journal or New York Times, CNN or Fox News, there are cultural expectations and presuppositions that frame and influence your journalism. And yes, that often results in biased and skewed reporting, but that is true across the spectrum. But it certainly doesn’t entail or even imply the nefarious intent entailed by the act of gaslighting.
Not only is Crain’s brazen allegation an indefensible claim and a violation of the Golden Rule, but it is also indoctrinational in nature. When you insist that people who have different presuppositions, beliefs, and analyses than you are driven by nefarious intent to deceive you, you are simply constructing a binary edifice to neutralize any contrary views at the outset. This is not open-minded critical thinking. It is indoctrination.
Do All Christians Agree with Crain?
Finally, Crain’s analysis assumes that a “Christian worldview” or a “biblical worldview” just happens to align with her American right-wing political stance. She seems unaware that Christians exist across the political and social spectrum and that Fox News does not have a lock on Christian viewership. Crain would do well to spend some time with Sojourners and the Evangelical Left for starters. Then she could perhaps branch out to spend time with the Mennonite Central Committee, Quakers, the Catholic Worker Movement, and so on. Crain’s understanding of Christianity appears to me to be locked into a provincial conflation of her conservative American evangelicalism with the global church. And whenever you conflate your token local expression of Christianity with the global church, you’re in a dangerous place.
I think Crain offers us a decent warning about bias, presuppositions, and the danger of cultural captivity. The tragic fact is, however, that she seems unaware of the extent to which her article reveals her own uncritical biases and impoverished understanding of the global church.