At times I have questioned the moral, ethical and philosophic underpinnings of the work we do in the media industry and how it justifies terrible events in the world we live in and the human condition.

When I was younger, I regarded the consideration of such issues frivolous, idealistic and unrealistic. Now that I have traveled and lived among many different people in a variety of cultures, listened to their stories and their hearts, felt their pain and joy, I have come to realize that the cynicism of my youth was but a ploy to hide an ignorance I couldn’t admit for pride and knowledge that I couldn’t admit because it is in conflict with decisions to serve my ambition or simply, making money. When I look back I see I have always had an artistic credo but I misjudged its value and how it affects the way I see things.

I didn’t become a celebrated icon of the industry by choice. Now, however, I feel my work in media may be important. Re-engaging in formal education late in life breaks up the crust of beliefs and brittle walls of decisions, views, fears and ambitions that limit creative thinking and imagination at a time in life when I feel I have never been more free, accepting, interested and open-minded, with everything to gain. Below, I’ve written a brief description explaining it’s relevance and importance to us, followed by my artistic credo:

Observations from history:

Media defines cultural values and much that happens around us is influenced by media and probably wouldn’t have happened but for mass media.

Stresses in communities of alienated, disconnected individuals and groups have been blamed on a culture of constant random relocation, a feature of our lives not typical of the environment in which human dna defined qualities of our social nature that distinguish human from other species most, qualities that take advantage of bonding and relationship.

When a strategy of independent entrepreneurs, following economic opportunity was formalized into a federal constitution that codifies the rights of entrepreneurial ambition the result was genocide, slavery and following the civilizing charters of state and local fiefdoms and more laws and institutions managing procedures through which power is sanctified, protected and exercised, great engines of industry and commerce have led to huge urban populations along with technology to support mobility, all absent the sense of relationship over generations that is needed in human nature and the experience of alienation became increasingly stressful and the source of violence and criminality.

Promoting wealth over all other values and not atheism has uprooted families and destroyed communities. The effect can be seen in small towns all over America where temporary economic booms were followed by depression and decay as newer generations moved on to find work elsewhere. Moving the Smiths and Kowalski’s to the Dakotas to find work fracking for gas, not illegal immigration, has splintered our culture by throwing generations to the four corners of the earth, resulting in populations of people everywhere that are more related to fictional characters they watch on TV than they are to each other.

Alexis de Tocqueville commented on the effect of this on Americans in Democracy in America in 1840 and in 1956, David Reisman described the current situation in The Lonely Crowd. Arthur Miller’s Death of A Salesman dramatized it but though we could see and feel the alienating process of our way of life, it was not possible to observe the connection to a political structure because criticizing it had been made sacrosanct and in some ways, actually illegal. We say we live in a secular state but unwittingly our Constitution has become the bible of a state religion. To believe in our government is to worship democracy. To worship democracy is to invest it with spiritual, religious values.

Mass media promotes and proselytizes personal values and worship of the state, ranging from respect for measures of affluence associated with advertised products and activities to admiration of military symbols and service. Interactive mass media creates illusions of virtual bonds of affection and trust modeled on real relationships but they have less benefit for the psychology of personal happiness than traditional literature. We have increasingly relied on mood-altering drugs to attenuate the pain of alienation but the negative side effects of alcohol and drug addiction led to suppression, resulting in illegal markets addressed by policing and millions in prisons, producing further alienation.

Does an artist address the suffering of alienation or only the alienation that affects him?

On week days, I read news reports from the BBC, Guardian and Independent and often follow up reading stories of particular interest in other publications that present views of various biases: parochial, critical and technical. I stay current but I also read and study history, all the sciences and culture, including literature and music. Leaves little time for TV or web-surfing since I must write, compose and exercise.

Increasingly, our culture seems more like a battleground than a community. This piques my interest in how we educate people in the media industry since art defines our culture. Arguably, if we in media are only concerned with learning the craft of production, content is someone else’s job but in the language of any medium, content is form and form, content—why we are critical of portrayals of ethnic, racial and other stereotypes.

According to forensic psychologists who studied interviews with mass murderers that went to trial, they are a product of alienation. The psychologists call this response, the pseudocommando, a military reference. Pseudocommando incidents are reported at an alarming rate in America. In affect they look similar to acts of violence involving factions in the Middle East, Africa, Malaysia, India and South Asia in that they indiscriminately attack people associated with officials and their own mainstream culture. We characterize these acts differently in media.

Individuals here are called murderers. Groups who are guilty of the same crime elsewhere are called, terrorists, unless they are employees of our government or an ally, in which case, they are commandos. Media promulgates these distinctions, so we know media is effective. The distinctions haven’t transformed the culture of the community, nor do they address alienation that is the root of violence.

Yesterday, a young man was involved in an armed stand-off with police at a nearby town. He is described as a “video-game-playing-loner”. A week earlier, grievances of a police officer, who had been trained by police and military to respond violently, were described in news media as a “manifesto”, a term that describes political ideologies of “terrorists”. I am neither a social scientist nor a psychologist but I know such nuances of interpretation in media define and transform cultural values.

As a media artist, it is my duty to know about and be responsible for my promulgations.
I find that working in narrative, music and any other art form, I use an intuitive process as a palette and a linear process as the brush. I can’t shut off my intuitive experience of the world and so it comes at me through my senses at full volume, yet I create only from my imagination. Openness to the world is not a mistake, just an approach to observation, the result is an ability to reflect, define and transform cultural values, not by logic, nor rationalization but by illumination that nourishes, validates and empowers something:


A Cherokee chief counseled his grandson, “A terrible fight goes on inside me between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, self-pity, arrogance, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self doubt and ego. The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, love, hope, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. This same fight goes on inside you and everyone.” “Which one will win?” the boy asked him. “The one you feed.”

Paradox: “Isn’t this democracy thing based on inspiring mobs?”

(This essay is an application of David Reisman’s analyses in The Lonely Crowd and Faces in The Crowd.)

“We pretend no liability for future risks because we’re comfortable knowing we won’t have to pay for them and we allow development without regard for consequences. This view underlies the economics of industrial urban societies.”

The hero stands on the old high wall of the ancient city, speaking to the gathered multitude, who have come there with their hopes and dreams. More about them later, you know who you are.

“It is supported, not only by the rewards of distributed profits for those engaged in damaging enterprises, but also by propaganda that instills values at an early age that equate peer approval with material symbols of economic power. Some choose between starving or taking the only employment available, while others have the temporary illusion of success by choosing employment that allows them to acquire trappings of success: things and relationships based on values they’ve internalized from advertising, video games, narratives. Yet, besides these middle classes, there are countless others without even these choices: those who can’t spare a thought to virtue; little more to life.”

The mainstream personality is today a product of ubiquitous public education in the United States. Social scientists have produced studies that show not only that people today are driven to feel they must survive economically, but also, they must be able to afford to consume things as promoted in media narratives and ads. To feel successful, the industrial urban man or woman anywhere on the globe must be able to display material symbols of power but to act or speak powerfully requires discretion. The mainstream personality type is discrete and though not defined by traditional values as they were in the 19th century, they may only be characteristically revolutionary: Don Quixote, not Ché Guevara.

We mainstream people are Buddhists, Confucian, Christian, Islamic or Humanistic or even engaged in fringe cultures, S&M or evangelical creationism. We are interchangeable in terms of lifestyle and economic choices, equally led by material ambition, whether sex-workers, communication consultants, bankers, engineers, priests or rabbis. We may espouse progressive or liberal, authoritarian or democratic political views, but our lifestyle reflects subordination of inconvenient ideas about environmental stewardship whenever in conflict with material needs, ambitions and fears of loss.

Consuming permeates mainstream culture everywhere. The more self-willed and autonomous are more likely to develop antipathy toward environmentally negligent activities but they are also less likely to carry placards or be activists within a system they may see as absurd. On the other hand, a self-willed, anti-establishment sex-positive person could be just as compelled to material ambition and just as likely to ignore negative impacts of their lifestyle choices, while seeing themselves as anti-establishment. Whether on the fringe or in the center, self-willing or more externally influenced people must equally come to terms with the fact that they are surrounded by people who are self-destructive in their environmental views, guided by desire for peer approval while seeing themselves as conscious and responsible.

Mainstream personality types, who must depend on media to determine their values, are confused when values are inconsistent with their own logic, more so as they age and learn that they are “in the way”. Some, who are frustrated early on by the dichotomy of choosing while not choosing, consult doctors who prescribe medication that attenuates emotional responses, and many others drink alcohol or use marijuana and street opiates and as time goes on, they attribute their predicament to those choices, having forgotten entirely the stress that initially induced them to become users.

Externally directed people, who are comfortable in authoritarian societies and uncomfortable with autonomous freedom, frequently join small social groups–like street gangs and service clubs, and many of them are also drawn to join larger sub-cultural groups that share common values, such as, the law enforcement officers’ professional associations, Scientology and other demi-religious sects. In a more general way, they may identify with sport franchises and their counterparts in the worlds of popular music and video games. In each case, they seek to limit their personal exposure to external direction to specific adopted views and values.

Whether the individual is more self-willing and autonomous or more influenced in their choices by peers, ads and trends, the cost of escaping from the responsibilities of freedom for individuals is a diminution of the capacity for experience with a correlated insulation from nature and reduced quality of intimate connection with others, including members of their own families. While they are certainly not zombies in the classic, physical sense, at the end of the day, based on their actions, their experience of life is somewhat like that of a zombie.

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