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Lesson 4: The Media’s Ten Commandments
Recently, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited President Donald Trump at the White House. After moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem in the spring of 2018, Trump followed up his historic decision by agreeing with Israel, rather than with the United Nations, that the Golan Heights should be permanently considered to be part of Israel.
Netanyahu’s visit happened to coincide with the release of the Mueller Report on whether Donald Trump and his campaign colluded with Russian in the 2016 elections. Upon his departure, Netanyahu said to the media:
I am now returning from an historic visit to Washington. President Trump’s recognition of our sovereignty over the Golan Heights will be remembered for generations.
There is a very important principle in international life — when you start wars of aggression, you lose territory; do not come and claim it afterwards. It belongs to us. We have historic foundations on the Golan Heights. When you dig there, you discover magnificent synagogues which we are restoring.
We have returned to the Golan; the Golan is ours. The Golan is ours by historic right and by right of self-defense, and President Trump recognizes this. That you are not covering this for more than a minute is something you will be called to account for. However, in historical reckoning, this is huge.
Benjamin Netanyahu understands that what is important is not necessarily what is reported. How true this is today. But, is the media just overlooking that which is historic, or is there something larger going on? Is our view of the media too small?
The Media and its Goal
The essence of “media” is communication. Merriam-Webster defines it as: a channel or system of communication, information, or entertainment. The reason we underestimate the media is because it is the arena in which evil has the most control.
Jews were given the charge to be a light to the nations about 3,500 years ago, and Christians have attempted to assist in that charge in the last 2,000 years. Spreading the knowledge of God to the world is akin to shining light. Our goal is to assist God in fulfilling his promise that
They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Isaiah 11:9 (NIV)
And we know from many other passages that it is God’s desire that this great work happen through us.
But evil has a goal as well. The goal of evil is to thwart God’s plans to bring light and knowledge of Him to the world. Since “evil’ cannot out-power God, it knows that a full-on attack of God is futile. In addition, because mankind has free will, it cannot intrinsically overpower us and force us to commit acts of evil. Instead, evil works primarily in the field of influence, and it uses information and knowledge as a means to influence.
Enter the media.
Media is about the what, the knowing, and the how, how that knowing is conveyed. Is it any wonder then that the “media” is the battleground of light and darkness today?
Where is the Media in the Bible
Let’s put on our “media glasses” and go back and take a look at the interaction of Eve, the serpent, and Adam in the Garden of Eden.
Before chapter three, all communication was between God, Adam and Eve. God set the standard for knowledge! He spoke creation into existence, and He began the process of teaching Adam about that creation by the naming of the animals. He also gave mankind its first command.
But by chapter three, I would contend that an alternative media company has been established. Let us humorously call it the “Serpent Media Corporation,” or SMC for short!
Who was the CEO of SMC? Why the serpent of course!
Who was the first consumer of SMC information? Eve.
The very first “story” published by Serpent Media began with a question:
Now the serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild beasts that Hashem had made. He said to the woman, “Did Hashem really say: You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?” Genesis 3:1 (TIB)
As we walk through this dialogue, we can discover some principles that media companies continue to employ. For grins, let us call them the Ten Commandments of the Media, and let’s find them on a walk through the Garden of Eden in Genesis chapter 3.
Media Commandment #1. Hook the media consumer (through reading, viewing or listening) with a headline that causes them to want to engage with the story.
Today in the age of the Internet, they call it “clickbait.” Back then they just called it an unprovoked question about a topic of interest. But was it all on the serpent? It seems that Eve happened to be walking near a certain tree!
Media Commandment #2. Publish stories for your own purposes.
You can see this in the entire approach of the serpent. To the extent that it can get away with it, a shrewd media outlet will choose its stories to advance its own objectives, not the objectives of its consumers. The ultimate objective of the SMC was to foil the good plans of God on the earth.
Of course SMC’s opening headline — a question — was not consistent with the facts. The Serpent Media Corporation in its error reveals another tried and true media commandment:
Media Commandment #3. Exaggerate the negative.
A shrewd media outlet will raise the possibility of a negative story to something dramatic. We can imagine that if Adam and Eve had had children in the Garden of Eden, with no sins committed yet, perhaps SMC would launch a newspaper called The Garden Gazette. In one of its Sunday editions a headline might ask the question:
Will God’s Prohibitions Increase?
The article then proposes the possibility that God might God begin to add new trees to the list of prohibitions. Will there be enough food in such cases? Might the future of mankind be in peril? The article defends itself by reminding us that it is not stating facts, only asking questions!
Eve’s reaction to the first media story ever recorded in history was to downplay the dramatic negative angle of the questions being asked with some facts of her own.
The woman replied to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the other trees of the garden. It is only about fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that Hashem said: ‘You shall not eat of it or touch it, lest you die.’” Genesis 3:2-3 (TIB)
Oh Eve! In choosing her facts, she revealed the weakness of her position, for indeed, God had not said that if she touches the tree of knowledge of good and evil she will die! Since Eve had no reason to lie, we can assume that it was Adam who told her this in an attempt to make sure that she wouldn’t go near the tree. But Adam made a mistake by not bringing her into the full knowledge that he had received from God.
Did you just notice that Adam was acting in the role of the media? The latin word ‘media’ actually means to be in the middle, between. Adam opened his own media company — Dust of the Ground Media (DoGM) — on Oracle Lane even before SMC ever opened its doors on Tree of Knowledge Boulevard.
Now that we are already talking about two media companies, let us stop and say that not every media company today has evil intentions. Dust of the Ground Media (DoGM), was trying to keep the peace and help its customers (his wife). But even a media company with good intentions can produce stories for its own interests rather than stories that are completely consistent with the knowledge of God. We all need to understand this! I believe our view of the media is too small if we simply divide media companies into good and bad ones, light and dark ones.
Media Commandment #4. Be sure to serve your own self-interest, because unless you do, you won’t be able to help others.
Media companies justify their actions, in part, by the need to keep the doors open and their lights on, to pay their employees, and to pay their executive bonuses. I suspect that when things aren’t going well in the business, then a very strong self-interest combines with the business predicament to birth the most devious of stories. Serpent Media Company had huge self-interest.
Thankfully for SMC, some of its paid staff in its customer survey team (a raven and a buzzard) had learned and reported back that Eve did not have all the facts.
Media Commandment #5. Know your audience and exploit — oops, appeal to — them.
Use knowledge to position stories in a way that will have the most influence. It even happens on local TV news, that you wouldn’t think would be so affected. Yet such stations have a saying when picking the order of their stories for each evening: “If it bleeds, it leads.”
Certainly, there is nothing wrong with a company knowing its customers, and trying to serve their needs. But Serpent Media did not want to simply inform Eve, it wanted to exploit her. Eve never saw that coming. But I believe that God noticed, and had great compassion upon her. I believe this is why God later promised the serpent that the seed of the woman would crush his head.
At this point, Serpent Media shifts from its exaggerated opening question, designed to hook the consumer, and moves to the main point of its story — which it frames as honest-to-goodness NEWS.
And the serpent said to the woman, “You are not going to die, but Hashem knows that as soon as you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like divine beings who know good and bad.” Genesis 3:4-5. (TIB)
When hard NEWS is factually wrong, the results can be devastating if believed. And if the media company has sunk so low as to corrupt its own news reporting, the best way to do that is with a mixture of real facts along with lies.
Media Commandment #6. First, gain their trust.
Yes, it is true that Eve was not going to die when she touched the fruit. When she touched the fruit and did not die, she knew SMC was right. Now that SMC had earned her trust, Eve was ready to fall for the lie.
Another commandment we can learn from this passage is how to attack your opponents.
Media Commandment #7. When you can’t win with facts, question the motives of your opponents.
God was on the receiving and of the very first media hatchet job in the history of the world! His character and motivations were being questioned. He was holding back an advancement of mankind by restricting that tree!
Media Commandment #8. While attacking others’ motives, defend your own motives as pure.
SMC let Eve assume that their intention simply to inform. Eve was completely unaware that SMC had “a stake” in her decision.
Media Commandment #9. Establish an alternative worldview in your publication, and promise good things will happen if everyone accepts it. SMC’s alternative worldview was nothing less than mankind being raised up to a whole new level of existence, being more like God.
“…you will be like divine beings who know good and bad..”
And finally, the last commandment is:
Media Commandment #10. Ignore all stories that don’t reinforce your worldview.
The story that SMC could have rightly published on that day, was the story about how Adam may have not revealed the full truth to Eve about how the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil actually worked. But SMC smartly ignored that REAL story, kept completely silent about it, and launched the alternate story we read in these verses.
And now for the Good News!
What is God’s response to these Ten Commandments of the media? It seems to me that God greatly enjoys defeating the media by launching small stories that eventually change the world. Consider these examples.
- He creates man out of the dust of the ground. Really!
- He forms woman out of the rib of a man. In Rivkah Adler’s class on Women of the Bible we learn that Jewish sages say this is the reason women mature faster than we men!
- Moses is drawn up out of the water of the Nile and presides over the birth of a new nation and the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.
- David is called in from the shepherding the sheep to be anointed as King, a man after God’s own heart.
- Yeshua is born in a simple manger in Bethlehem, but has changed the world forever.
- In the 1800s, some Yemenite Jews began to return to the Holy Land, followed by some Jews from Russia. We hardly know their names even today.
- In 1947 the world (through the United Nations) would birth a new nation in a single day.
- Twenty years after that, in 1967, Jerusalem would return to Jewish control, thus returning that land to its original owners, just like the Biblical principle of the jubilee.
- Forty nine years after that, on April 17, 2016, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would declare the Golan Heights to be eternally part of Israel. We wrote about this in chapter 17 of our book Jubilee NOW!, and called it historic at the time — a “Jewish Jubilee” for land.
- And now, three years later, President Trump aligns the United States with Israel’s prior declaration regarding the Golan. Someone is blessing Israel again! Do you think God will simply ignore this?
Indeed, it seems to be the pleasure of God Almighty to begin the greatest of stories with the smallest of stories — stories that are overlooked by the powerful — at least at first.
Years from now, when all the distractions and distortions of the present moment blow away like chaff in the wind, we will be left with an eternal reality: God’s stories will prevail. They will be celebrated and remembered for eternity.
And the best news of all is that He desires that mankind join with him to write those stories and shine light to the world until “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2:14 (NIV)
Everyone of us is a small story in His hand if we so desire.