Owned and published by UMHB, The Bells is a biweekly publication. This content was previously published in print on the Opinions page. Opinions expressed in this section do not necessarily reflect the views of the staff or the university.

Media: Catering to public or conveying trustworthy facts?
Oct30

Media: Catering to public or conveying trustworthy facts?

In 1972 two Washington Post journalists followed a story about a burglary which led them down a path of corruption and lies. The ensuing scandal involved the president and caused his eventual resignation. The Watergate scandal and the investigative work of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein is an example of the power of the media and its role of protecting society and democratic processes. The freedom of the press has been an essential part of American society since the Revolution. Because the role of the media is providing the public with reliable information, their most valuable asset is credibility. Journalists are expected to adhere to a strict set of ethics. Plagiarism and using false sources are often career-ending offences. In spite of this, the media have been losing much of their trustworthiness over the last decade. According to a recent Gallup poll, 60 percent of Americans have little or no trust in the mass media. This is the highest level of mistrust ever recorded in America and is a sobering fact in an election year. The study showed that distrust was highest among Independents and Republicans. The suspicion is certainly deserved. Many Americans consider the media to be strongly biased or sometimes even false. The main reason to distrust the media is that they have more incentive to minister what the public wants to hear than the actual truth. The news media are businesses that essentially give away information. Newspapers are relatively cheap, and most of the large dailies publish online. Much of their revenue comes from advertising. To hook lucrative advertisements, media outlets need high ratings and subscribers. There is normally a direct correlation between revenue from advertisements and the size of the audience. Instead of providing the truth, the media will provide the public with what they want because it pays. If people care more about the lives of celebrities than they do about local politics or domestic and foreign crises, then news media will provide it. What is frightening is how the media have taken the public’s obsession with celebrities and used it in the way they paint politicians. Likability and charisma have always been important for politicians. The news media generally report superficial things about politicians rather than trying to analyze policy and procedure. In spite of the fact that our culture promotes instant gratification, the truth is actually difficult to find. With the sheer amount of information that is out there, the public is overloaded with data. Most of the news on television consists of sound bites that are taken out of context and slanted to promote media bias. Generally, finding the actual truth...

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Pinterest to blame for unorginality
Oct30

Pinterest to blame for unorginality

“That’s really cute! Did you get it off Pinterest?” For much of the population at the school, this question would be quite a compliment. Others might take offense at the suggestion their latest project was someone else’s idea. People automatically assume that anything crafty or creative is unoriginal, which brings up a good point. In today’s wannabe-artsy generation, is copying a project from Pinterest truly a form of creativity? From a cutesy-crafty point of view, Pinterest is the perfect outlet for collecting ideas and creating a virtual dream world. Users can upload or “pin” images and organize them into personalized categories called boards. A few of the top subjects include recipes, workout tips, crafts, dream weddings and fashion. Launched in March 2010, the social scrapbook reached more than 11 million users before its second anniversary. The thought behind collecting ideas on virtual bulletin boards filled a void in the world of social media. More meaningful than liking a page on Facebook, pinning offers users the chance to paint a personalized picture of who they are based on individual interests, taste and style. According to the mission statement, Pinterest was created with the purpose of helping people relate over common pursuits. Its goal, as stated on the website, is to connect users around the world through shared interests, taste, humor and style. But the amount of originality on the website is greatly lacking. Many of the pins become trapped in an endless cycle, copied time and time again to boards across the globe and thus stifling the individuality of being creative. The number of repeated pins can be annoying. Even worse, users commonly admit to spending hours at a time on Pinterest and even becoming addicted to pinning. They spend more time sitting in front of their computer screens pinning recipes and crafts than they do actually cooking and creating. One quote wryly repinned by users serves to poke fun at the website: “Thank you, Pinterest, for helping me feel creative even though I’ve really just been sitting at my computer for three hours.” On the other hand, some members make an effort to take their ideas and put them to good use. They have Pinterest parties with friends, and they cook, paint or make scarves from old T-shirts. Cynics might see these parties through the lens of friends gathering in one place to make unoriginal, often useless crafts. In many cases Pinterest inspires a sort of cookie-cutter creativity, resulting in exact copies or projects slightly tweaked for a more personalized fit. Sadly, attempting to copy the cute DIY projects is often accompanied by a sense of dissatisfaction. Trying too...

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Letter to the Editor

This is a response to the October 2 Bells writing that referred to Muslims, and ostensibly a film, in a tenor exemplified by such phrases throughout as “no brains, brainless mobs in the Muslim world, turned violent, ridiculous, unruly crowd, irrational, herd mentality, against their better judgment, dangerous, scary, politically profitable to defend the honor of Islam, violent mob, blind obedience,” on par with crass media stereotypes of Muslims, film or no film. No comparison/framework is given characterizing Christians who kill millions throughout history, or even in reference to U.S. un-Christian policies in the Middle East. A film or any one thing (such as the acquittal of police beating a Black) is basically only a precipitating factor as it called in social science, and blowback (as the CIA refers to responses to those policies of ours deemed criminal and immoral) occurs, or as a Congressperson admitted, there was already a “long line of attacks on Western diplomats and officials in Libya in the months leading up to September 11, 2012.” Since we are in academics, note that much of Islam and Arabic culture laid the foundation for much of academia. Since we refer to ourselves as being in Christian academia, note that Islamic and Arabic cultural emphasis is on hospitality to others. In fact regarding the latter, a Waco Baptist missionary who has been in the Middle East for 30 years reiterated that here recently as well. Dr. Jose Martinez,...

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Politics vs social sites
Oct30

Politics vs social sites

The old saying about not discussing religion or politics seems to be as outdated these days as parachute pants and VHS tapes, at least when it comes to the latter. If you’ve been on any form of social media in the past couple of weeks, no doubt your newsfeeds have been inundated with posts and tweets about the presidential debates and upcoming election. From loyal Obama backers to rallying Romney supporters to independents and those who just “don’t care at all,” it seems as though everyone has an opinion. And social media has been the place to share it. While the Web can serve as a good spring board for exercising the right to free speech, it can also become an avenue for bitter arguments between friends, family and even strangers,when it comes to a topic as volatile as politics. But because people can hide behind a monitor and say whatever they want, the Internet has become a place to blast, not only candidates, but every belief, opinion or conviction someone else may hold. Apparently all old adages have been thrown out the window because the wisdom of not saying anything at all if you can’t say something nice has also been discounted as people take to their keyboards and computer screens to vent about who said what during the debates. Sure, political conversation can be a great thing. And the fact that we have the freedom to engage in such conversations so openly is a right we should not take for granted. However, what good is it doing anyone to rant on Facebook about your opinions without any regard for whom you may offend? It’s almost enough to make you think twice about logging on to social media sites at all. Who wants to be berated with one hostile statement after another when all you really wanted was to look at pictures of your best friend’s cruise or read a humorous post about someone’s day? And it doesn’t just stop at one comment. If you’re looking to garner attention on your wall or feed, just say something offensive about one of the presidential candidates or mock something they said on national television during the debates. Soon, your friends and followers, and possibly their friends and followers, will engage in an argument that goes on for hours, or even days if you’re lucky. And usually, the conversation turns into petty name calling that has little or nothing to do with the original post. The truth is, it’s unlikely that what is said on any social media site in a moment of annoyance while watching a debate is ever going...

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‘New Normal’ in families

By Jasmine Simmons From June Cleaver to Snookie, there has been an obvious change in family dynamics over the past half century. As society becomes more tolerant to alternative lifestyles and social practices, family life develops new facets as well. In today’s post-modern society, families are breaking June Cleaver’s utopian picture of happiness in the home all over the country. It is an understatement to say that the standards of the average family have changed from the days of Leave It to Beaver to present day. If a family from the 1950s were to gaze into an American household today, they would be shocked to see single parent homes, households with teen mothers and same-sex parents to list a few deviations from the 1950s American household. Divorce, a concept that was basically taboo in the 1950s, has impacted a large majority of households. Teen pregnancy is on the rise in the States. High schools are now making child care centers in school buildings, so teen mothers can continue their education. Six states have legalized same-sex marriages, and activists in other states are fighting for its legalization. Unconventionality is running rampant in families across the United States. While the reasons behind such families may vary, it is still alarming how far contemporary households have veered from the model of the conventional family in earlier generations. Oddities in families are cinematic gold for media outlets like television and movies. The MTV television program Teen Mom showcases the lives of high school teenagers who have become mothers. The New Normal, an ABC sitcom, tells of a single mother who works on becoming a surrogate for a gay couple. Movies like Baby Momma and The Back-up Plan depict single women who desire to have a baby without a partner whatsoever. These television shows and movies acknowledge the changes in family dynamics and profit greatly from them. Standards are being refined as it pertains to the home and the family dynamic. Still, acceptance is not always the best policy. Within this era, where there is a development of different ways of life, a line must be drawn when deciding between what is permissible and impermissible. Things are not as they once were. People are not as they once were, and as a result a new normal has been set for the U.S. and the families that exist within...

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Sketchy sales prove useful

The words black market are associated with shady and illegal practices. One image that comes to mind is the stereotypical man selling watches from his trench coat. The black market has a reputation of being unsafe and unproductive. Many do not realize the scope of the shadow economy. The pharmaceutical sector of the U.S. is valued around $252 billion while the illegal drug trade is around $215 billion. What is more surprising is that the illegal drug trade in the U.S. is worth $89 billion, more than the fast food industry in America. Globally the black market is massive. It has an estimated worth of $10 trillion. The shadow economy encompasses a whole slew of business practices. These ventures range from violent enterprises like drug trafficking and prostitution to unlicensed selling of goods like working as a street vendor. One reason for the sheer size of the shadow economy is because of the large quantity of workers employed under the system, which is 1.8 billion people. The widespread nature of the phenomenon has allowed for a good deal of international trade, which in turn has also contributed to the rapid growth of the underground economy. Much of the business that makes up the shadow economy is in the developing world. Illegitimate businesses in these countries are often able to circumvent their inefficient and often corrupt governments by dodging import regulations and taxes. In essence, they practice an extreme form of free trade. One of the largest suppliers in the international shadow economy is China. Sellers provide many different forms of electronics and machinery under the radar and off the books to African countries like Nigeria. While this is illegal because it violates international trade laws, it has actually benefited workers in countries like Nigeria. Companies in developing countries often do not have the budget to buy legal software and operating systems for their computers and have been known to pirate the software they need. There have always been those who have disregarded the rules and benefited. With the staggering number of those involved in the shadow and its success brings to question how flawed the shadow economy actually is. Prostitution and drug trafficking are illegal and have very negative consequences. Copyright infringement and breaking international trade laws are also illegal, but they can have positive consequences. For those in the developing world where the odds are stacked against them it would seem that participating in the shadow economy is their only option for economic success. The underground economy has had better success at uplifting the economic level of developing countries than all the international aid and work programs. Aid...

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