Food. Violence. Fear. What do these things have in common?
Through out the course of a two-quarter class, Critical Thinking and Writing, I explored food and violence as separate entities and as they relate to one another within the context of fear and the media. By analyzing the trends in the food industry and the violence in the United States of America, I came to the conclusion that mass media manipulates Americans and our fears to sell products and make a profit, instead of reporting true facts.
In Critical Thinking and Writing 1, I explored the truth behind the organic foods trend. The media tells us that purchasing organic foods is a healthier option for us and is a more ethical option in context of animals. But is this an accurate statement or is this a ploy to make us spend more money on food? Jonathan Safran Foer, the author of Eating Animals, interviewed a farmer to learn more about the food industry for his book. The interview revealed that even if meats are certified organic, the animals themselves are not healthy. They are artificially inseminated and genetically modified to yield the most profit, not the healthiest product. Not even organic turkeys can stand or fly, for they do not have the strength (Foer 11).
So if the animals are not healthier in and of themselves, organic most refer to the way they are treated, right? Wrong! Foer explains how the organic food companies side step USDA standards and abuse their organic certification by preventing inspectors from witnessing the kills and by manipulating the space requirement. Since inspectors cannot see the kill floor, they are unable to accurately determine the condition of the animal or the nature of the kill. Moreover, the companies avoid following through with the promise to give their animals more space to roam by allotting them the minimum amount of space required and allowing them to use it only for short periods of time.
Not only are these companies not treating their animals in the way that we expect but there’s no substantial proof organic foods are even healthier for us. The USDA “makes no claims that organically produced food is safer or more nutritious that conventionally produced food” (Organic Foods Standards and Labels: The Facts), so why is there such a craze to purchase organic foods? The media. The mass media, through advertisement, tells us that there are benefits to purchasing this more expensive food, even though the facts do not support that idea. They feed on American fear by claiming that non-organic foods can lead to increased allergies, as they may contain antibiotics, and that companies not certified organic may foster salmonella outbreaks. But upon further research, one can see that these ideas stem from very little facts and much paranoia; paranoia that the media uses to sell both their stories and the products of other companies.
Another way media uses our fear is through showing extensive violence in the news and entertainment industries. Stories about car crashes, gang violence, shootings, and wars dominate the news industry because those stories sell. Americans are so afraid of these negative events that they desire to learn more about them, but this has consequences, as it gives the media a way to manipulate their fears. Americans do not question “facts” as they should when they vision is clouded with fear. For example, the war in Iraq supposedly occurred because they had “weapons of mass destruction” and “ties to al Qaeda” (Gershkoff). This sparked American fear since al Qaeda is the group responsible for the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Americans feared that Iraq would launch another terrorist attack, so the United States declared war on the country with the support of 70% of Americans (Gershkoff). Although President Bush did say that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, he never outright said there was a tie between Iraq and the attacks on September 11th. However, he did not have to as the media solidified that connection. The media used American fear of future terrorist attacks by groups like al Qaeda to rally support for a war that was founded on false statements (Gershkoff). Neither the news media nor the public questioned the validity of the statements. The public blindly accepted what they were told and reacted out of fear.
In entertainment, the shows and movies play on the fears of zombies, aliens, and other supernatural creatures by depicting the violence they unleash upon the world. Are Thor or parasitic aliens going to drop out of the sky any second? Probably not, but you never truly know. This fear of the unknown is something that is easily pried upon by the film industry, which is shown by the numerous alien invasion movies that exist. Fear is so prevalent in this industry and many others as a fearful country is a corporative country.
Manipulation of the American people by the mass media can be seen in almost every aspect of our lives, as media propaganda is present everywhere we look. Social networking, the Internet, television, and physical signs all send messages of consumerism and fear. They sell the news, not tell the news or the truth, so if we do not question what we see, we are destined to be victims of the media. But we can overcome that by learning to be vigilant and think for ourselves. As my grandmother says, we should take everything with a grain of salt.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown, 2009. Print.
Gershkoff, Amy, and Shana Kushner. “Shaping Public Opinion: The 9/11-Iraq
Connection in the Bush Administration’s Rhetoric.” Perspectives on Politics 3.03
(2005): 525-37. Web. 06 Mar. 2015.
“Organic Foods Standards and Labels: The Facts.” The National Organic Program.
The National Organic Program, Apr. 2002. Web. 20 Oct. 2014.