Should the media put us on character-building regimes?

I was pointed towards an article by David Brooks called ‘A Case of Mental Courage’ .

Part of it says:

This emphasis on mental character lasted for a time, but it has abated. There’s less talk of sin and frailty these days. Capitalism has also undermined this ethos. In the media competition for eyeballs, everyone is rewarded for producing enjoyable and affirming content. Output is measured by ratings and page views, so much of the media, and even the academy, is more geared toward pleasuring consumers, not putting them on some arduous character-building regime.

In this atmosphere, we’re all less conscious of our severe mental shortcomings and less inclined to be skeptical of our own opinions. Occasionally you surf around the Web and find someone who takes mental limitations seriously. For example, Charlie Munger of Berkshire Hathaway once gave a speech called “The Psychology of Human Misjudgment.” He and others list our natural weaknesses: We have confirmation bias; we pick out evidence that supports our views. We are cognitive misers; we try to think as little as possible. We are herd thinkers and conform our perceptions to fit in with the group.

But, in general, the culture places less emphasis on the need to struggle against one’s own mental feebleness. Today’s culture is better in most ways, but in this way it is worse.

So I know it is twisting his words to say that he is suggesting that the media should be educating audiences rather than responding to audience demands, but surely such an idea merits thought. I am of the opinion that it merits thought because I think it is quite a dangerous idea. Who should endure what suffering? What character should people build? Who decides what evidence deserves attention? It seems to come back to the debate as to what counts as a valid way to live life as a human.

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