I have a theory: what you read, what radio station you listen to, what TV station you watch shapes your political and spiritual views. Perhaps they shape you even more than your parents’ views, or your friends’ views, or how you were brought up. One could argue the converse of that statement—what you believe shapes what you read, listen to, and watch—but I think it’s the other way around.
Perhaps I should narrow my statement a little bit: what you read, watch and listen to before you turn 35 shapes what you believe. Once you turn 35, you pretty much believe what you believe, and then you watch/read the things that reinforce your views, and it would take something big to dislodge you from those views.
College is fundamental in shaping a person’s views. It’s a time when their professors have a huge influence over what they believe; it’s a time when they’re questioning what they believe (and what their parents believe); it’s a time when kids are just beginning to think about the larger issues of society, and are given the stage to participate.
It’s also in college that kids start reading the things that they’re not required to read. In high school, most read only for assignments. In college, they start reading other things to “find out who they are.” No one tells them to start reading the “Communist Manifesto,” or Slate.com, or Salon.com, or The New York Times editorial page, or to watch CNN or MSNBC; they just do. No one tells them to read “If Democrats Had Any Brains, They’d Be Republicans,” or Townhall.com, or DrudgeReport.com, or The Wall Street Journal editorial page, or to watch Fox News; they just do it. (Side note: the funniest book title that I’ve heard today is P.J. O’Rourke’s new book, “Don’t Vote: It Just Encourages the Bastards”).
There are those college kids (and high school kids) that don’t follow this trend; they’re perfectly happy to remain who they are, without “searching” for something new to be. But, for the most part, kids shape their political thought between ages 18 and 35. Those who haven’t, in my opinion, are those who don’t vote and who stay home and watch football on Sunday.
Think about your own experience. Do the things you read and watch mainly agree with what you believe? Do they shape what you think about certain topics? If you read a publication on the “other side” of an issue, do you find yourself questioning your own view? Do you listen to Rush Limbaugh, and find yourself thinking that those who don’t are idiots? Do you watch Keith Olbermann, and think that everyone on the right is crazy? Do you watch Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, and find yourself pointing and laughing at all the other silly people in the world?
What do you think? Are you shaped by what you read/watch/listen to? Or is it the other way ‘round?