Wednesday, August 09, 2006

What's going on

I don’t know if this ever happens to you, but sometimes, I read something that I agree with so completely that I internalise it, (does ‘internalise’ mean what I think it does?) adopt the arguments as my own, and find myself getting frustrated with other people because they don’t instantly understand a line of thought that is obvious to me (having ‘internalised’ it at length previously).

And this is particularly the case when the book you read confirmed long-standing prejudices anyway.

In this case, I have in mind Pierre Bourdieu’s ‘On Television and Journalism’. Soon after I read it, I forgot that I’d done so, but I’ve been presenting his views as my own ever since. So, self-esteem = delusion (again).

It is a great book and I urge you to read it. I stumbled upon my own copy as I was sorting out a box of books and I’ve just re-read it.

Here is a sample (mostly from the introduction):

“…the journalistic field produces and imposes on the public a very particular vision of the political field, a vision that is grounded in the very structure of the journalistic field and in journalists’ specific interests produced in and by that field.”

“… there is a tendency to shunt aside serious commentators and investigative reporters in favour of the talk show host….. real information, analysis, in-depth interviews, expert discussions, and serious documentaries lose out to pure entertainment and, in particular, to mindless talk show chatter between “approved” and interchangeable speakers….. these people are always available…. not merely to participate but to play the game – and they answer all the questions that journalists ask – no matter how silly and outrageous…… To justify this policy of demagogic simplification (which is absolutely and utterly contrary to the democratic goal of informing or educating people by interesting them), journalists point to the public’s expectations. But in fact they are projecting onto the public their own inclinations and their own views…”

“…they are more interested in the tactics of politics than in the substance, and more concerned with the political effects of speeches and politicians manoeuvrings within the political field (in terms of coalitions, alliances, or individual conflicts) than with the meaning of these…… all of this leads to a cynical view of politics which is reflected in their political arguments, and in their interview questions. For them, politics becomes an arena full of hyper-ambitious people with no convictions but a clear sense of the competitive situation and of their opposing interests..”


All bleeding obvious when you think about it, isn’t it? Now, if I quote any more, I could get a nasty letter from the publishers’ lawyers. But the above sample is not simply the best bits cherry-picked.

Almost every sentence in these 82 pages punches a button that is rarely touched in public discourse. I’d urge you to read it as an introduction to the totality of power-relations within the media, and how they effect democratic discourse.

2 comments:

Paul Anderson said...

Paulie - Bourdieu, phew.

Problem is that the boy himself was a journalist: editor of Liber, to which I once contributed a piece.

In translation (under his direction) "Stuart Hall" was turned into "John Stuart Mill", instantly transforming my dull commentary on the contemporary British left intelligentsia into a surreal frenzy of nonsense.

Paul Anderson said...
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