Santa Clara University


Personal and Communal Values in the Global Communication System

1. Brief Introduction
2. A Short Introductory Course
3. Other Resource Materials

Brief Introduction

The wide spread use of the Internet and satellite technology has greatly influenced the global communication system. McAnany identifies the launch of STAR-TV in 1991 as a crucial change in the system. Gulf War I featured the political-communication role of CNN International and the Iraq War of 2003 featured Al-Jazeera. Many communication outlets, for example, the BBC and the new (2006) Al-Jazeera English service, serve worldwide clienteles. Both TV and the Internet have fostered the formation of "virtual" religious groups and tied immigrants to their home countries. Adept use of the Internet, both for forming communities and for soliciting donations, can make a significant difference to political campaigns, as in Obama's victory in 2008.

Three interesting cases for the impact of the communication system on religious organizations are Islam, evangelical Protestantism, and the new atheism. China and Iran make fascinating cases of the state's attempt to control media content, both nationally and internationally, to limit ideological criticism and communication among unapproved groups. In Hanson, Religion and Politics in the International System Today (Cambridge, 2006), see “The Global Communication System,” (pp. 32-42), and “Personal and Communal Values in the Communication System,” (pp. 66-67).

A Short Introductory Course:

Michael Budde has questioned whether the penetration of the global culture industries has made religious belief improbable, if not impossible. Evangelical Protestant and Muslim commentators, and many parents, judge the content of international media to be harmful to their fellow believers and children. Religious organizations also produce their own media content. Eickelman and Anderson, and Lynch present recent media developments within Islam. Marshall, Gilbert, and Ahmanson provide discussion of six case studies where journalists erred. 

Budde, Michael. The (Magic) Kingdom of God: Christianity and the Global Culture Industries. (Boulder: Westview Press, 1997).

Eickelman, Dale F., and Anderson, Jon W., eds. New Media in the Muslim World, 2nd ed. (Bloomington, IN.: Indiana University Press, 2003).

Lynch, Marc. Voices of the New Arab Public: Iraq, Al Jazeera, and the Middle East Today (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004).

Marshall, Paul, Gilbert, Lela, and Ahmanson, Roberta Green, eds. Blind Spot: When Journalists Don't Get Religion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).

Other Resource Materials:

Abernethy, Bob, and Bole, William, eds. The Life of Meaning: Reflections on Faith, Doubt, and Repairing the World (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2007). Collection of interviews and contributions to PBS's Religion and Ethics Newsweekly show.

Anderson, Jon W. “Alternative Trajectories of IT Development: Shaping Arab and Muslim Cyberspace,” Santa Clara University Center for Science, Technology, and Ethics, October 23, 2003.

Appiah, Kwame Anthony. “The Case for Contamination,” New York Times Magazine (January 1, 2006): 31-48. This is an essay adapted from Appiah’s book Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (New York: W.W.Norton, 2006). It says “No to purity. No to tribalism. No to cultural protectionism. Toward a new cosmopolitanism.” This Princeton philosophy professor from Ghana argues that “If we want to preserve a wide range of human conditions because it allows people the best chance to make their own lives, we can’t enforce diversity by trapping people within differences they long to escape.” “A tenable global ethics has to temper a respect for difference with a respect for the freedom of actual human beings to make their own choices.” The question a political scientist would ask a philosopher concerns the degree of freedom possible with the current concentrations of power in the global media markets. Appiah gives examples of how media consumers always reinterpret the cultural messages of the programs. Granted, but the final result is always the combination of both the original media message and the viewers’ reinterpretation. The heroes of the article are the Latin writer Terence, who combined Greek and Roman comedy, and Salman Rushdie, who celebrates the intermingling of cultures and fears the absolutism of the Pure. Appiah also discusses the “counter-cosmopolitans,” young, global Muslim fundamentalists who seek to create an umma free from the sham Islam of recent centuries presided over by traditional religious authorities. “Unlike cosmopolitanism, of course, it [Roy’s neofundamentalism] is universalist without being tolerant, and such intolerant universalism has often led to murder.”  

Brasher, Brenda, ed. Encyclopaedia of Fundamentalism (London: Routledge, 2001).

McAnany, Emile. “Globalization and Localization,” Explore 6 (Fall 2002): 5-11.

Micklethwait, John, and Wooldridge, Adrian. God Is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith Is Changing the World (New York: Penguin, 2009). From the first example, a tech-savvy house church in Shanghai downloading hymns and sermons, this Economist presentation of the resurgence of religion shows the impact of the new media.

Miles, Hugh. The Inside Story of the Arab News Channel That Is Challenging the West (New York: Grove Press, 2005). The story of al-Jazeera.

Raphael, Chad. Investigative Reporting: Muckrakers, Regulators, and the Struggle over Television Documentary (Urbana, Il.: University of Illinois Press, 2005). This book covers the U.S. struggle among government, media, and public interest groups over muckraking documentaries, 1960-75. The cases do not fit preexisting theories, but demonstrate the tensions in the media’s trying simultaneously to legitimate dominant ideas, maximize industry profits, maintain professional objectivity, and reveal social problems. Raphael confirms and suggests revisions (adding indexing and factoring in hostile reactions) to the model of The Journalism of Outrage. Contrary to the classical liberal “watchdog” model, government and media actors often cooperated, and the general public did not always respond to the muckraking.

Soukup, Paul, S.J., Buckley, Francis J., S.J., and Robinson, David C., S.J., The Influence of Information Technologies on Theology,” Theological Studies 62 (2001): 367.

Soukup, Paul, S.J., “Media echoes in the development of the self,” Explorations in Media Ecology 1: 119-33. 

Tracy, David. “Public Theology, Hope, and the Mass Media: Can the Muses Still Inspire?” in Max L. Stackhouse and Peter J. Paris, eds., God and Globalization: Religion and the Powers of the Common Life (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity International Press, 2000), 231-54.

WEBSITES:  The University of Southern California website on media and politics directed by Diane Winston, Knight Chair in Media and Religion.

See Markkula Links for Media Ethics (6 entries)

Recent Articles:

"The Arab Media Decide to Focus Coverage on the Voting, not the Violence," New York Times, January 31, 2005. Arab channels and newspaper focus on Iraqi election coverage, not violence, as the rule previously.

"Spreading the Word: Who's Who in the Arab Media," New York Times, February 6, 2005. Description of satellite television and newspaper outlets.

"Google's China Problem," New York Times Magazine, April 23, 2006. Article by Clive Thompson on the relationship between China and Google, and difficulties for both.

"Murdoch's Dealings in China: It's Business and It's Personal," New York Times, June 26, 2007. Murdoch's long courtship of Chinese officials for his media business interests. Compare with Falun Gong below.

"Monks Are Silenced, and for Now, the Web Is, Too," New York Times, October 4, 2007. Role of the media in Myanmar protests, and comparison with other international examples.

"An Internet Jihad Aims at U.S. Viewers," New York Times, October 15, 2007. U.S. examples of what Al Qaeda calls "Islamic jihadi media."

"Chinese Dissidents Take On Beijing Via Media Empire," Wall Street Journal, November 15, 2007. Falun Gong media attempts to penetrate China.

"As Iran Menaces, Al Jazeera No Longer Nips at the Saudis," New York Times, January 4, 2008. Al Jazeera much less critical of Saudis in response to changes in Middle Eastern politics.

"Drawing a New Map for Journalism in the Mideast," New York Times, January 5, 2008. Interview with Abdul Rahman al-Rashed, director of Al Arabiya, and his analysis of current media issues.

The New Atheism:

During the last couple of years, a strong attack on religion has been support in a number of best-selling books. These books are more important for their social impact than for the cogency of their argumentation. See, for example,

Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006).

Dennett, Daniel C. Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (New York: Penguin, 2007).

Harris, Sam. The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason (New York: W.W. Norton, 2004).

Harris, Sam. Letter to a Christian Nation (New York: Knopf, 2007).

Hitchens, Christopher. God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (New York: Hachette Book Group USA, 2007).

For a short theological rebuttal to these works and their "scientific naturalism," see Haught and the America section. For a social science analysis of the "damage" of religion, see any evenhanded analysis of the good and bad effects of religious organizations, about half the entries on this website.

Haught, John F. God and the New Atheism (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008).

"The New Atheism," in America (May 5, 2008): 11-29. Short pieces by Richard Gaillardetz, Haught, Richard Mouw (president of Fuller Theological), Stephen Pope, and Michael J. Buckley.

More detailed works are:

Bruce, Steve. God is Dead: Secularization in the West (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002).

Buckley, Michael J. At the Origins of Modern Atheism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990).

Buckley, Michael J. Denying and Disclosing God: The Ambiguous Progress of Modern Atheism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004).

Haught, John F. What Is God? How to Think about the Divine (New York: Paulist Press, 1986).

There are also some connections to the secularization debate in the fifth section of this website, for example, accounting for the rise of modern atheism has many points in common with accounting for the rise of secularization, in any of its three major meanings.

November 4, 2009.