Oh dear, its seems to have gone all pear shaped for David Beckham in the US. Beckham arrived in the States to play for the LA Galaxy with enough hype to power a medium sized country for several generations. His arrival was a media event designed to capture the attention of the US sporting market. All the stops were pulled out for his debut, which was meant to be a a game, but turned into a media event in which the camera spent more time on an injured Beckham on the bench and on the Hollywood royalty who had turned out for Posh and Becks.
Now here we are two years later and Beckhams own teammates and fans want his head on a platter. What went wrong? How could it turn so sour? The answer is encapsulated in one little word that strongly defines our culture today. Hype.
Hype is the creation of false energy and expectations. In his book The Image Daniel Boorstin illustrates the rise of hype. Boorstin explains that newsmen at the beginning of the mass media age had a problem, that was that life and thus the news was not all that interesting. Sure there were news worthy events, but they tended to come rarely. So the media began to manipulate or create news. The master of this technique was media magnate William Randoplh Hearst who invented the concept of sensation in the media.
Thus as the news became more entertaining and sensation began to mix with facts. Advertisers and Public Relations firms became adept at layering around events a seeming sense of importance, in order to capture the publics attention. All kinds of techniques were employed for this purpose, from celebrity appearances, lighting, scandal, music, stunts and most importantly, filming and broadcasting the event. Boorstin names these type of events Pseudo-Events, meaning that they had the appearance of being important, but kin reality nothing was really happening. This is the essence of hype, it is an attempt to build up something into what it is not. To add a level of excitement and emotional intensity which is simply not there to begin with. It is a technique of emotional manipulation for the means of acheving a goal or purpose.
However as the Beckham example shows, when we employ hype, we create expectations that cannot be fulfilled, therefore the next step on from hype is disappointment, as people begin to realize that what they are being sold is not what they thought. There is a real challenge when it comes to hype for the Church, there is a tremendous temptation to employ the techniques of the pseudo event, to create levels of hype, in order to achieve our goals. We must remember though that we are called to be people of truth in all that we do. The church or ministry which employs hype, will have to face a tomorrow which will be populated by extremely disappointed, dismayed and disillusioned people.