I think Erin is going to do well in college. We will need many more Millennials like her to get us through this Fourth Turning with a positive outcome. Here is her paper for her freshman College Writing course.
Guest Post by BostonBob’s daughter Erin
George Saunders discusses the idea of a man with a megaphone drowning out all other voices in his essay “The Braindead Megaphone”. His omnipresence reaches each corner of the metaphorical party he attends. The sheer volume of his voice effects each of the party goers and their conversations due to the fact that they cannot produce any original thought over the musings of the man with the megaphone. This man is a symbol for the media that encompasses every day life. The numerous sources of information that bombard anyone who owns a television or has an internet connection can shape the discussions and opinions they have(Saunders 240). The Megaphone Man isn’t just the collective voice of the media; it is the surrounding people and environment that also contribute to the spreading of ideas.
George Saunders defines “…the Megaphone as the composite of the hundreds of voices we hear each day that come to us from people we don’t know, via high-tech sources…”(244). Saunders discussed is that the media is the equivalent of the megaphone man, however, the media is not just one man. While the man at the party is a singular being, the news is broadcasted from many outlets. Newspapers, journals, blogs, and television networks are only some of the ways people acquire news. Moreover, these media outlets are each a mass of people, news stations, reporters, along with online sources adding to these enormous information outlet. There is a hierarchy to the large news corporations that decide what will sell over what is important knowledge for the public.
The composite of voices, Saunders believes, is the collective sound of people behind the screens used by society on a daily basis. These “high tech sources” are full of people we may recognize but don’t know personally, however, information is learned by people we know as well. The ratings and approvals of news stories is more important than the relevancy or knowledge they supply. It is in the public’s sight around the clock whether they seek it out or not. One may not have an opinion on an issue, but it is almost guaranteed they have been exposed to it one way or another.
My tiny town is set half an hour from Boston. It is filled with like minded people who bond over the similarities of their views and opinions. While many kids in school find themselves unconcerned with politics they may have more opinions than they realize. They are engulfed in a media rich world which gives them insight into current affairs, as well as attending a school full of opinionated peers and living in a home with opinionated parents. Many students discussed their views in class by prefacing their ideas with “Well my parents think…” or “My mom told me…” and it was clear that this influence is huge.
The loudest megaphone that Saunders neglects to discuss is the environment each person is surrounded with. Parents lay the foundation for their children’s beliefs by molding them with ideas of their own. High schoolers often find the opinions of their friends at school matter to them and they match their own ideals. Children in my town are raised in a place where most people agree with the values of their parents. They are sent to a school full of teachers who will preach the same ideals, and are surrounded with other children who were raised the same way. These children all in turn bond over their ability to spit out what their guardians have planted in their heads, and the similarity of the roots.
Not only are the students of my hometown being born into certain opinions, they do not question what they’ve been told. Not every child is going to question the knowledge they gain from their parents because of the close relationship and trust that is built between them. Saunders extends his argument against the Megaphone Man by stating his “…responses are predicated not on his intelligence, his unique experience of the world, his powers of contemplation, or his ability with language, but on the volume and omnipresence of his voice”(240).
The people who are relaying their beliefs onto the youth may have some life experience, but they may not have any intelligence or ability to contemplate what they’ve heard themselves. Their children develop the habit of accepting information from sources that their community deems respectable. These people are a neverending sphere of influence.
The cycle that continues in small towns like mine perpetuates a common thought. Anyone who disagrees is an outsider labeled as confused or plainly wrong. In my physics class my junior year of high school there was clear tension between my liberal teacher and a conservative peer. Before every class my teacher would instigate a debate going as far as ordering a cardboard cutout of Barack Obama and placing it in front of the student’s desk. After weeks of passive aggressive comments and arguments the student was sent to the office. He had a choice to sit quietly but there is no reason a teacher should be antagonizing a member of their class.
This occurrence was met with a quiet response from other students due to the anxiety of being punished themselves. This demonstration and subsequent fear further leads to young people not expressing their beliefs or questioning those of authority. Constant information is fed into minds which doesn’t allow for original ideas to last. Saunders explains that the Megaphone Man’s voice overtakes entirety of conversation leaving nothing but his own words to discuss: “They’ll stop doing what guests are supposed to do: keep the conversation going per their own interest and concerns. They’ll become passive, stop believing in the validity of their own impressions. They may not even notice they’ve started speaking in his diction…”(240).
Not only are the conversations steered one way, but people who desire a change of subject lack the confidence and support to change the path of discussion. They also are at risk of losing the ability to discuss their own interests.
This environment is all encompassing and it leads to people who only seek out news that agrees with their views and ignore the sources saying otherwise. George Saunders would urge the people of my town to pop their surrounding bubble and question what they hear, instead of assuming that all of their favorite authors and anchors are the most intelligent providers(248).
Instead of following the flow of information people need to break from tradition and form their own opinions. News sources and relatives alike need to be questioned for their reputation and validity. Many people base their opinions on the man with the loudest megaphone and disagree just to disagree or agree to fit in. Whether one’s opinion coincides with the views of the majority or not, the public needs to ensure they are receiving intelligent information that is the foundation for their unique opinions.
Saunders, George. “The Braindead Megaphone.” Other Words. Ed. David Fleming. Dubuque: Kendall Hunt, 2009. 239-248. Print.