The Dichotomy of Media Messages

By Nora Dunn on 22 April 2008 22 comments

I don’t watch a lot of television. When I’m not living in the bush somewhere off the grid, or trekking through the mountains, or taking on some such nomadic adventure or another, I am usually sleeping, writing, or spending time with friends and family.


So when I had an occasion to watch some television recently, I was horrified.


Here is how my evening went:


10pm: An extremely educational, inspirational, and moving show on global warming. It opened my eyes further to the very real world tragedy that will occur within our lifetimes if we don’t change our ways drastically. And I don’t mean carpooling to reduce gas use – I mean life-altering drastic changes.

But the finer points of how the world needs to change are neither here nor there in the context of this article.


11pm on the same channel: A program glamorizing the logging industry. Loggers are made out to be tough macho heroes as they rip apart forests, several trees at a time.



Hmm…do you see any mixed messages here?


The idolization of big tough dangerous jobs like logging, mass fishing in rough seas, and even trucking seems to be a new trend in the media. And yet it is these very activities that are effectively destroying our planet, as indicated in the many environmentally based documentaries also being televised.


And to schedule these rampantly opposing programs back to back…what on earth are they thinking?!

Is it a method of presenting both sides of a story to the viewing audience?

Maybe this channel (which shall remain unnamed) is trying to be everything to everybody, catering to environmentally sensitive individuals who want to save the planet, as well as people watching television for mindless entertainment.


I have no doubt that the global warming show is just as over-produced and riddled with agenda as the logging show is. And maybe I am biased towards the global warming audience (heck – it’s Earth Day – I’m allowed!), but with the dichotomy of mixed messages coming from the media every day, it’s no wonder that we are continuing down a very dangerous road with our lives, our planet, and our future.


At this rate, maybe the end of the world is closer than we thought…

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Guest's picture

Hi, Nora.

One thing you left out: Advertising. Does the station really about the messages presented or is the bottom line the bottom line? My opinion is that both programs were there strictly to gain as much viewer-ship as possible.

Love your posts!

Guest's picture

This is like on food network when they have a show that promotes healthy eating... and then the next show is about the history of McDonald's. Anything that brings in money, I guess.

Guest's picture

I thought those reality shows were a bit out of place. What I find more odd or annoying are the tv commercials enticing people to eat tons of junk food constantly sandwiched between weight loss commercials.

Linsey Knerl's picture

are the healthy eating shows "You are What You Eat", etc... that have that commercial for Redi Whip in them.  It shows a kid putting Redi Whip on everything, and the mom smiling because it's low in fat and made from real milk.  Why can't kids just eat pancakes normally?

Guest's picture

Why should a network have a unified policy position? And if you think that is so, what is so wrong with putting those who work blue collar jobs in a positive light. Even if you agree with global warming, some logging and fishing are pretty inevitable. I doubt many people will do more of either because of shows about interesting and risky jobs.

Guest's picture

I don't see much of a problem with the show you described, though I didn't see it myself. Logging is a necessity in modern society and will continue to be even if we all switch to using cloth towels and reusing paper. I hate to see old wood forests cut down for no good reason, but that doesn't mean that all logging is like that. I grew up in an area where there were a lot of pine forests grown for the purpose of paper production. Because of the local paper industry, we actually had more land kept forested -- which is a good thing on many levels.

I don't know what there is to glorify about logging, but why not I guess. I'd rather see that than glorifying using disposable plates for convenience or using disposable cleaning wipes in the name of sanitation.

Guest's picture

I think that mixed messages are important in media. It allows me to form well-rounded & understanding opinions that take in sides that we normaly I may not consider.

I prefer wider view-points than narrow view points especialy when I do have an agenda. If I dont understand why the other person thinks the way they do and what evidence they are considering how can I except to either learn from them or be able to for a effective argument that they can learn from?

I think in many cases people prefer to stick to there own viewpoints in when facing oposition they argue back without consideration. I think this is dangerous if I want to form a realitic & compassionate view of things because when I invest so much energy into building up one way of thinking that is RIGHT then, if I am mistaken, it takes just as much energy to break it back down. Because of this when I face dissagreements I try to spend more energy understanding the oposition that proving my own point.

And this comment may be ironic.

Guest's picture
Rob O.

I'm actually a big fan of the network in question and although I understand why this might've seemed like a mixed message, really I think the 2nd show was a tribute to hard-working men doing a difficult & dangerous - and vital - job rather than meant to be glorifying the destruction of forests.

Like it or not, you do have to concede that some degree of logging is necessary and in fact, some forested areas are routinely thinned for ecological purposes.

The same channel also features shows on marine ecology (an issue near to my heart) AND men who work on dangerous deep-sea fishing boats. I've never seen two of these shows aired back to back but the fact that both are shown doesn't cause me to think less of the network.

Guest's picture

I was a little disappointed in this post!

I come from a family, who along with the entire town, is supported by a paper mill. Everyone there is constantly living in fear that the mill will close, thus turning Ste. Anne de Beaupre into a varitable ghost town.

I now live in Seattle, where there is an impression that everyone who cares about the environment turns their nose up at the working class. I try very hard to deter that impression.

"Loggers are made out to be tough macho heroes as they rip apart forests, several trees at a time."


What we need to realize is that natural resources WILL be used for our benefit - its just HOW we do it that needs to change.

I salute those folks who do the jobs that allow me to live the life that I do. Not to mention, with the way I react to a splinter - wrangling trees day in and day out and providing for a family is pretty heroic to me!

Guest's picture

I have to say, I'm in agreement with Kat, above me on this one.

The first episode I saw of the "Manly logger" show was only because Husband was watching. I've learned in the past few episodes, what sustainable agriculture is all about. Cutting trees, and the replanting of these forests, and then allowing those tree fields 40-50 years growth before recutting.

I was surprised, and impressed.

You may see men ripping apart forests a few trees at a time. I see the farming of trees in an ecologically friendly manner.

Get back to me the next time you don't have a roll of toilet paper in your bathroom, a post-it note at your desk, or a birthday card to send to your Grandmother.

Guest's picture

As you state, you're biased toward Goreology (sorry, global warming). You have drunk deeply from the green koolaid!

TV is a wasteland, generally, Accept that, and you will be much better informed.

But on the question of opposing viewpoints - "A program glamorizing the logging industry" vs a "extremely educational, inspirational, and moving show on global warming". (Using your words, I hope you see the ironic and blatant bias on your part) - I have to say it is at least better than what kids are getting at school.

The schools are run by the most liberal and politically correct segment of our society. Hence, there is no balance and certainly no opposing viewpoints allowed.

Perhaps, you're just a product of our educational system yourself.

Guest's picture

The article smacks or either elitism or naive youthful thinking, or both.

Guest's picture

Agreed, it's a weak article with a weak premise.

Guest's picture

I am sorry to respond off topic, but I am just so upset by the oppressive and hateful nature of your blog. Your "math question" verification method is racist. It is like when Southern states required reading tests for voter registration knowing that the black man, long denied a proper education by the racist white man, would be less likely to pass. Math is a subject area stolen from Africa by the Greeks and over time infected with the white man's racism while being denied to the Nations of Africa. I suggest that you implement a more culturally neutral system for verifying one's humanity.

Guest's picture


Guest's picture

Well, I'm a working class kinda guy, I've fought forest fires, worked in the Oil patch, I worked in the printing industry, construction, For a time I even ran my own Contracting business in a large city. The whole gambit. House, cars, Typical North American lifestyle.

I've also lived without toilet paper, power, and lived completely sustainable, grown my own food, recycled everything, and worked my tail off doing it.

Both Ends of the Spectrum...

I think I know of the T.V. station and programs in question. Logging is HARD and very dangerous work especially on the side of the mountain. I can see where the drama can come from.

The world needs wood...fact. Most North American forestry and fishing management areas take pretty good care of their forests. They replant and now selective cutting is becoming more the norm than before.They live in the forests depend on them for a living and lifestyle, it's their home. I've seen the show and I can understand where the appeal to watch can come from. Subsequently the T.V. station gets that too, and hey let's face it they are there to make money.

Then there is the other show...

Global warming and what the world could look like, post "icecaps" melting.

Despite the "debate" of whether or not Global warming is happening, ice on our planet is melting at exponential rates. The program (not a quote) says that if sea levels rise even a fraction of what they are supposed to in the next 50 years a massive amount of the earths population will be displaced. Up to 75% of North Americas fresh water will be gone, and a sizable portion of China, California, Florida and Europe will be underwater.

So the math looks like(according to the program): in 50-100 years
There will be more people on the Earth than there are now +
with less landmass for them to live on +
less fresh water than ever before to grow food with +
countries competing with others just to feed their citizens =

The largest Famine in the history of the planet combined by World War 3...a war based on obtaining resources for survival.

If it's wrong, great!

If it's not, your grandchildren won't have to worry about the schools which are "run by the most liberal and politically correct segment of our society. Hence, there is no balance and certainly no opposing viewpoints allowed." there Kelja

There are mixed messages by todays media put forth to the average viewer. Thats what the article is about. It is the biggest single medium on the planet, sure you gotta put something on the "Tube" for everybody. However don't you think the responsibility for the programming at least falls on the providers a bit? It's not an article that "smacks or either elitism or naive youthful thinking, or both."

It's about the fact that we need to evolve as a species and with contradictory "entertainment" like that being fed to our future world leaders at their most impressionable times.

It's a bit irresponsible if you ask me, I liked the article and it's scary what we let our media do for; oops us.

Guest's picture

Oh yeah, World Vision has announced today that they have to cut back on food aid supplied around the world...has the food shortages already started?
If you want check out the news article.

Guest's picture

I'm going to go to Whole Foods in my SUV now.

@ comment #14: I think of that question as "smart-ist". However, I always double check my answer before I hit the post button. ;)

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

Hi all, thanks for the comments. Some great points have been made, and an interesting debate is percolating. 

First of all, I will gladly concede that television programming should indeed present different viewpoints. And because it's television, I will temper my future viewing with the knowledge that every program - no matter what it is about - has an agenda, and a skewed viewpoint. 

I simply experienced shock at the dichotomy of programming aired back to back...I was still digesting the first program when my train of thought was given a bit of a smack in the face. 


I will also gladly concede that logging is imperative to a certain extent at this time, and that loggers often have a responsible reforestation mandate. But I have also seen vast areas of deforested wastelands - just off the road and on other side of mountains, only visible from the air on a private flight - that certainly haven't been reforested. I have heard of rumblings to the effect of reforestation being a "sham" and bandaid solution to appease the public. But in the spirit of being positive I also have hopes that the people claiming that it's a "sham" are wrong and that all logging practices do indeed plant more trees than they cut down. 


And I will also agree that hard-core environmentalists can be elitists and extremists. I don't think of myself as a hard-core environmentalist, and certainly not an elistist, and probably not an extremist either!  But for the record...

 @Comment#11: I am not a subscriber of "Goreology". His lectures and movie did not change my life. My life changed when I learned to live sustainably - truly sustainably - and returned to the "developed world" saw first hand how wasteful we are every day in ways I never considered. I resent the implication that anybody sensitive to environmental issues is immediately dismissed as being into "Goreology".  How sad it is that Gore is your only source of environmental education. 

@Comment #10: I don't use new paper (I write on scrap paper if I have to) nor do I use post-it notes, I categorically never give holiday cards, and I have indeed lived without toilet paper. How about you? (And admittedly, not using toilet paper sucks! There's a post idea....toilet paper alternatives...hmmm... - smiles)!


LizLovely, you reminded me of a funny video on a recent No Impact Man's blog post: check it out here

Thank you again for the comments, all! 


Guest's picture

Nora - First, let me apologize if I offended you by putting you in the Gore Camp. Thinking about it a bit, I have to admit I'd be highly offended to be labeled a Gore disciple.

But you must realize Gore is certainly not my source of 'environmental' education. I don't proscribe to his self-serving propaganda which is making him a rich man. I am somewhat amused at those that do so uncritically.

I believe we can all do our part for the environment but we must not fool ourselves. Practicing 'sustainability' is something only those that live in abundant societies can do. Using recycled paper, in your case, has no real effect on the world's environment, good or bad. It does make you feel good, and that's something I don't knock and won't try to dissuade you from doing. But let's be real.

Case in point - ethanol. What a tragic wasteful idea, an idea that will probably cause a few people to starve. Brought to you by environmental idealists and the heavy hand of government. Neither understanding the law of unintended consequences. The ethanol boondoggle will, I predict, set the environmental movement back by decades. This is certain to happen when food becomes scarce.

I don't understand why people trust government more so than the free market. I mean, every time the governmental meddles with the economy, it causes major distortions. But, they're geniuses, right?

Anyway, Nora, you didn't quite catch the irony of your own words or tone, did you? I think that is what set off a lot of readers. Quite Obamaistic.

Guest's picture

Don't worry, global warming is a hoax.

Guest's picture

Love your site!
Gotta take issue with your "loggers ripping out trees...."
We must remember that in the U.S. we replace/replant many times MORE trees than we harvest. It's an amazing thing. No, I'm not in the industry, I'm just a country bumpkin who loves the land and as a private timber ground farmer/owner, try to be a very, very good steward. But do your research, we plant and replenish so many more than we take.
Also, look around your home and yard. What's left without our gorgeous wood products?
Great site, great input, great food for thought.