TOPIC

TOPIC: Belief Systems

TITLE: Is media the real factor behind the rise of religious conflicts rather than resolutions of them?

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As time passes by, it seems as if the media’s impacts on people and the way they observe some specific topics, in particular belief systems, is impossible to ignore because media technologies are developing faster than ever. It may seem like the latest developments that happened in the field of the media have more benefits than damages to resolutions of conflicts, explicitly religious conflicts. Since, individuals tend to assume what they watch and read at first glance, as it was explained in the study called ”Misinformation and Its Correction: Continued Influence and Successful Debiasing”, rejecting the truth of information was much more difficult than simply acknowledging it.

The findings in this particular study were what inspired me to write about Belief Systems, as it had all the right answers I waited a response for. My second reason behind the preference of my both topic and question was my World War 2 research I did for my history class. Although it was not as effective as my previous reason in my decision, I felt compelled to write on this topic.

In my individual report, in which I am going to mostly evaluate if media accomplishes a more admirable job in fueling religious conflicts than dealing with them, I am also going to analyze lack of religious literacy among people who have interest an in journalism and the fragile relationship between freedom of expression and religion.

It is an undeniable truth that media has effect on every part of someone’s life from their perspective on belief systems to politics, mostly as a consequence of the time we are living and the power media has. And at this moment, the question that should be asked is if media’s influences are negative in a way that causes religious conflicts or positive. From this point on, I will be evaluating my sources based on their strong and weak points and trying to answer my research question.

The first source I found was an article written by Abby Day, who is Professor of Race, Faith and Culture in the Department of Sociology, at Goldsmiths, University of London, and published on the LSE Religion and the Public Sphere blog, which is a multidisciplinary academic blog run by the London School of Economics and Political Science, called,”The conflict between religion and media has deep roots.” The article addresses the breakdown that seems to be occurring on the relations between religions and media, both failings and differences on the representations of Islam and Christianity were given in the article with the evaluations of them. In my point of view, the author achieved a splendid job by indicating the comparison between the media’s portrayal of Muslims and Christians in her article, as it makes it much easier for the audience to consider the bigger picture. What is more, the article had many links related to the examples and information the author provided, which were enough to call the data ‘reliable.’On the other hand, in spite of the fact that the mentions of the author’s experiences and her advice made the article more interesting and enjoyable to read, it also caused the language used in the article to be not free of emotions, in other words the article was biased.

The second source I am going to mention is a research report from the world’s first multidisciplinary open access journal, Plos One, journals.plos.org, called ”News Exposure Predicts Anti-Muslim Prejudice.”The research has a variety of references, including some basic books, like The Nature of Prejudice, statistics and newspaper articles. Moreover, the authors of the study are experts on the topic, and they have declared there was no conflict of interest. As a result, the information given in the research report can be interpreted as both reliable and scientific. The study deals with one of the crucial social problems’ of the 21st century, the prejudice against Muslim people in the media that has been going on since the 1950s and its impacts on how society views Muslims. And it does a superb good job with such a delicate subject by both taking into account stereotypical representations of Muslims in the media and how non-Muslim population responds to the news. Nevertheless, in my opinion, the report is biased as it only gives place to Islam in all religions and it does not focus on the view of other societies to the news apart from New Zealand.

I decided my third source to be an article, which I also used in my World War 2 presentation for my history class, named ”Defining the Enemy”, published on Holocaust Encyclopedia. The article is about the way the outsiders, Jews, Sinti and Roma (Gypsies), homosexuals, political dissidents, were presented by Nazi propagandists, however; I only took the portrayals of Jews into account. According to the article, Jews were mostly portrayed as conspirators who were responsible for the every wicked and immoral thing, including the war, which made it easier for Nazis to detest them. The article was quite fun to read, and it made me understand that the media has inevitably been a tool to fuel conflicts and violence in the hands of wrong people. In spite of that, as it was not only focused on Jews, it was far from providing me the right answers for my question.

If I am going to talk about the other issues related to my question, a majority of journalists’and reporters’ lack of religious literacy and the fragile relationship between freedom of speech and religion should be mentioned by me.

More and more people, who are too far away from having an understanding of the motivation that makes people embrace religion, are pursuing a career in journalism with each passing day. And these people may be one of the significant reasons for the global rise of religious conflicts in modern society. An article, which I found in the Journal of Media and Religion in order to obtain well-grounded results, called ”Time to ‘Get’Religion? An Analysis of Religious Literacy among Journalism Students” became my starting point for my further research. As stated by Jeremy Littau in the article, the results of a survey of 513 journalism and non-journalism students revealed that journalism students’scores on basic religious knowledge were no better than non-journalism students.’ The situation can be described as worrying, when you take the fact that those journalism students who would have to broadcast or write about one of the most sensitive topics’ of 21st century sooner or later, are lack of having knowledge about the topic. A news article, called ”Journalists Get Religious Literacy Training with NUJ”, published on CATHOLICIRELAND.NET, addresses young aspiring journalists’ crying need for religious literacy attributable to the fact that having no knowledge of belief systems precludes reflection of religions without falling into the mistake of stereotyping.

Aside from people who seem to be engaged in careers they have no chance to be successful without being able to see beyond religion, the place of freedom of speech, a right every individual have as stated in the article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, on the increase of mockery of religion in terms of religious conflicts should be understood. According to a news article named ”Religion and Free Speech: It’s Complicated”, published in Index on Censorship, the problems of the relationship between free expression and belief systems seem to appear in practice, not on paper, as a result of the words, images or behaviours that hold enough power in themselves to not only make a believer offended, but also provoked them to violence. What is more, the situation has also contributed to diversity of opinions in the debate on if there should be some limitation on free speech when it comes to faith or not. While some of the people are in favour of thinking restrictions on freedom speech are necessary in any kind of society in order to prevent a possible chaos scenario to happen when it is someone’s faith you are talking about, the rest of them is in believe of bringing any kind of limitations would cost their free expression, as it is India, where behaviours and words are punished by law for the protection of faith.

In order to have more accurate results, I find it beneficial to make a comparison of my issues. As the connection between religions and media and its effects on the development of religious conflicts can be discussed in every part of the world, I did not feel much difficulty in finding trustworthy sources, such as news articles, statistics, research studies, I could use in my report without having to be concerned about the credibility of them. The only problem was the authors’ approaches to the misrepresentations of religions on the media, since it was almost beyond the realm of possibility for me to find any perspective focused on any wrong portrayal of religion other than Islam causing me to question the title of my report in the middle of my writing process, since it would cause my report to not fulfil my expectations.
On the other hand, my other issues were less comprehensive; thus, I had trouble finding appropriate sources, which could be proven. However, the same comprehensiveness of my articles yielded the exact answers I needed, except the theory of religious illiteracy in the field of journalism, which my sources fell short. Moreover, they were not as reliable as the sources I exploited in the analysis of my main issue.

As I have been trying to express in my report, it falls to the media and its portrayals of religions to engage people in an idea. That is the reason why, the first thing that should be done is taking action in order to destroy the myth that everything we are told to believe by media is untrue. However, nothing comes to an end only by contenting ourselves with the apparent truth; the thing that should be done is to perceive how it can be possible to avert media’s negative influences on the global rise of religious conflicts. Although raising awareness is an essential step that should be taken, using media to show how incorrectly the mass media represents belief systems would not be the best decision someone could ever make. For this reason, solutions should be focused on media more than the audience. One of the most important things that can be done is making Religious Literacy Project widespread among journalists and journalism students. Additionally, they can be in contact with people from the department of religious studies and religious communities to not get an erroneous idea about faith.

All things considered, if I speculate on my research question, is the way the media presents belief systems the real factor behind the rise of religious conflicts rather than resolutions of them?, I can answer yes, without having any doubts based on my sources. The only doubt I have, which is nothing compared to my high confidence, is due to my related issues, as they also have the potential to be the main factors behind the rise of religious conflicts.
My ability to use Google effectively to reach a wide range of trustworthy sources increased the credibility of my report; I also tried proving every statement I stated in my report by showing evidences from not only one source, but lots of. Nevertheless, I could not show more than two different causes of the global rise of religious conflicts. Furthermore, my sources mostly did not include any religion apart from Islam, which made it conjecturable.

To be honest, the things I learnt during the searching process of my report were not much extraordinary, as I have already known. Nonetheless, I became more conscious of the seriousness of the issue; as I found out some statistics suggest that people seem to consider negative representations of different religions more intriguing than the positive ones. What is more, I have never thought religious literacy was essential for journalists or journalism students until I found how much change it could have on the perspective of them. For that reason, considering my research enlightening would not be an inaccurate statement.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Misinformation and Its Correction: Continued Influence and Successful Debiasing
https://tr.scribd.com/document/262248912/Misinformation-and-Its-Correction-Continued-Influence-and-Successful-Debiasing, Accessed 18 March 2018-03-18
The Conflict between Media and Media Has Deep Roots
http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/the-conflict-between-religion-and-media-has-deep-roots/, Accessed 15 April 2018-04-15
News Exposure Predicts Anti-Muslim Prejudice
http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0174606
Defining the Enemy, Accessed 18April 2018-04-18
https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007819
Time to ‘Get”Religion? An Analysis of Religious Literacy among Journalism Students
https://preserve.lehigh.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1005&context=cas-journalism-faculty-publications, Accessed 23 April 2018-04-23
Journalists Get Religious Literacy Training with NUJ
https://www.catholicireland.net/journalists-get-religious-literacy-training-nuj/, Accessed 25 April 2018-04-25
Religion and Free Speech: It’s Complicated
https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2013/03/free-expression-and-religion-overview/, Accessed 25 April 2018-04-25

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