16/11/2007

Christ and the Media (by Malcolm Muggeridge)

I can just about remember Malcolm Muggeridge, who died in 1990. He was a satirist, a writer, a journalist and a media personality.

'Christ and the Media' consists of three lectures that he gave in London, followed by questions from the audience (with Muggeridge's answers included) in the back of the book, and then brief speeches from the chairmen after each lecture.

I found it surprisingly readable - and although somewhat out of date, inevitably since it was written in 1977, his predictions about the influence of the mass media are still relevant today. He decried the amount of time most people spent in front of the TV set (eight years of their life in all, he estimated - I suspect for many these days it's more) and the fantasy that cameras can project, even when filming supposedly real-life documentaries or news stories.

His first lecture proposed that if Jesus had been around in the 20th century, his fourth temptation would have been to appear on prime-time TV. Muggeridge was sure he would have rejected it, and his first lecture explains why he believes this. The others are more generally about the influence of television.

Having been around media folk for the past 27 years, I found it fascinating reading. There are some interesting anecdotes, and it's all very well expressed. I didn't agree with all that he said - I do think there's more value in the media, even TV (although I don't watch it myself) than he suggested, and that the Christian message can effectively be shown on television. As he says himself, it's a tool rather than something inherently evil.

Christ and the Media was published in 1977, and seems to have rather a small potential audience - so I'm surprised to see that it's still in print, in both the UK and USA. Certainly worth reading if you're interested in these issues. I would love to have known what Malcolm Muggeridge might have thought of the Internet!

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