Sunday, February 15, 2015

How to Be More Than Simply Aware

Back in 1948, Paul Lazarfeld and Robert Merton were concerned with the newest technology in the mass media industry and the effects that would ultimately end up changing the way our culture works. They narrowed down the 3 main functions of print, film, and radio. 1 of those 3 was something Lazarfeld and Merton call the “Narcotizing Dysfunction” of mass media (p. 105). A narcotic is a drug that soothes, relieves, or numbs pain or discomfort. A dysfunction is an unhealthy or abnormal performance.

They came up with a fancy way to say that observation of mass media outlets would soothe our concerns of major social issues simply by informing us of their presence and, instead of being called to action, we would feel a sense of political involvement from merely knowing that the problem existed. This should ultimately cause us to not act on the things we feel are important. How is this article from nearly 60 years ago relevant to soil-contamination?

Here you are, on eco-pol researching soil-contamination through our blog and, hopefully, our website. You know what soil-contamination is, you know what causes it, and you know what it effects. That is a great first step, but it is our hope that this is not the final step. It’s the biggest challenge of activists to figure out how to inspire our readers enough to encourage them to act on their beliefs once they are aware of the problem. But how? What can you, as a single person in this big ol’ world, do to help the cause?

And I promise, we are NOT asking you for money. There are many ways you can get involved and make a difference: By supporting social/political groups, by changing personal habits (several of which are suggested in other blog posts on this page), and by sharing your newfound information with others. I also highly recommend looking into our up-and-coming DIY page that will be featured on our website in the near-future.

In the mean-time, share our page! Another interesting media effect is their tendency to be an echo of the public at large. To be considered important, the media has to KNOW people think it’s important, which then spreads the word to others that, “Wow, this must be important because the media is talking about it.” It may seem like a silly series of “reciprocal pats on the back” between the media and its audience, but time and time again, it works (Lazarfeld and Merton, p 102).

Avoid being “narcotized” by the fact that you now know about soil-contamination. Be a part of the solution as well!


Lazarfeld, P.F., & Merton, R.K. (1948) Mass communication, popular taste, and organized social action. In L. Bryson (Ed.) The communication of ideas (pp. 95-118). New York: Institute for Religious and Social Studies.

Added by: Erin Kashuba

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