The Unreality of Pop Media

By: James P. Krehbiel

Today's media has done a masterful job of providing people with an illusion of reality. Much of the media culture is designed to create a mythical perspective, rather than depicting real life experience. Now you can vicariously live through someone else's orientation in the comfort of your own home.

When we choose to live through others' lifestyle, invariably we make a decision that our own reality is not good enough. We may need to sensationalize living in order to make life tolerable. Reality television is unreal. It is a caricature of reality. It represents events and situations that are distortions of the truth.

People are hooked on the electronic media because it give them a "life" even if is distorted or fictitious. People are afraid of "stepping out of the bubble" because they must generate the courage to find their own identity. To my amazement, as I was channel surfing recently, there were at least three concurrent survival programs showing beautiful people being "counted out." What a distorted message to send to our children. Some may say that I am being overly dramatic. With that in mind, let me take this media pop culture phenomenon a step further.

A great deal of public attention has been focused on tragic shootings perpetrated in this country by young people. What other Western culture has the homicidal teenage ideology as ours? Journalists, political pundits and mental health providers all have perceived the pattern of school shootings in different ways. Most of the explanations have left us feeling empty, not fully defining the problem.

I am not aware of many cultural prophets in this world, but one of them is an anthropologist who currently teaches at a community college in the Chicago area. Twelve years ago, I attended his presentation on the topic of "pop culture" and its impact on our social well-being.

Jessie W. Nash believes that the development of teen violence in our cultural fabric is not directly related to the typical psychological explanations provided such as poor self-esteem, bullying, defective parenting, and emotional suffering. Instead he claims that our society has created a "cultural ethos" that promotes and perpetuates the intermingling of violence, sexuality, and animistic religion. Who is fostering this cultural paradigm shift? It is the entrepreneur movie/video makers, comic book distributors, and video game manufacturers who are out to make a lot of money at the expense of our kids.

If you have any doubts about the reality of this cultural shift, check out your local computer store or movie rental place for the top five movies rented to children. While you are at it, check on the latest video games that are available for your children. Kids can systematically disable, shoot and kill their opponent at the convenience of their computer. They can heist cars like common criminals and play out the role of terrorists as they foster acts of violence. Children can even try their luck at shooting our former President, John F. Kennedy from the Dallas book depository. They can also replicate the bombing of the Okalahoma City Federal Building as they simulate the horrific experience of Timothy McVeigh. According to Nash, many children are "hard-wired" developmentally in such a way that they are unable to differentiate fantasy from reality. Is it any wonder why some desensitized kids can walk into a school building and shoot their classmates like target-practice?

James P. Krehbiel is an author, contributing writer for and a cognitive-behavioral therapist practicing in Scottsdale, Arizona. He can be reached through his website at

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