Thursday, 7 March 2013

Asking the right questions about the mass media: positive and negative agendas

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People approach the question of the media and politics from the wrong end - they ask how politics - or more specifically politicians - influence, bias and control the mass media - which is a classic example of asking the opposite question from that which reflects reality.

The proper question to ask is how the media influence politics; because the mass media is the ruling social system in modernity.

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The mass media control not just politics and civil administration, but law, religion, the military, education, science and the arts - all the major social systems.

Of course, control is not absolute - control never is; and of course there are more-or-less successful efforts for other social systems reciprocally to control the media (even a slave has some control of his master); but nonetheless the net direction of control is directed from the media to act upon the other social systems.

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What is the agenda of the mass media? What is it trying to do?

First there is a positive agenda - which comes from specific persons in the media; and a negative one.

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The media has multiple positive agendas, at a fine level of detail there are almost as many as there are people working within the media - as well as those agendas reflecting the back-influence of other social systems on the media.

In the past half century the positive agendas of those working in the media have become significantly aligned by selective recruitment, retention and promotion practices - that is by political correctness, which ideology comes-from and is enforced-by the mass media. 

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But it is the negative, and implicit, media agenda which is primary.

The negative agenda is that insofar as the media expands its share of attention (time and effort) then the media displaces other social systems.

Already the media is the primary mode of evaluation of public communications - as the mass media increases its 'market share' of peoples' lives, so it enhances its domination of those lives.

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Already the communications of the mass media dominate observation and experience (that which is observed and experienced but which is not in the mass media does not really exist; that which is in the mass media is - somehow - real and important even when we have never seen nor experienced it).

This is the authority of the mass media. Anyone who has attempted to argue against the trend of the mass media will know how powerful this is. Knowledge, direct personal experience, evidence, logic - all and any such are met by intense skepticism and moral rejection when they contradict mainstream media perspectives.

The media perspective is 'reality' for most people, on most subjects, most of the time: now that is authority.  

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The negative agenda of the mass media is that the mass media control all agendas more-and-more - that the mass media becomes decisive in all societal, public communication; that all other social agendas be assimilated to the media: and that societal and public communications displace personal observation and experience such that we live inside the mass media.

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7 comments:

  1. What was and when the first medium of mass media appeared?

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  2. I don't know whether than question could be answered definitively - McLuhan said the Gutenberg breakthrough was the start of it - which is probably good enough. But all these trends start small and insignificant and apparently gradual until the wonders of exponential growth become apparent.

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  3. In a byzantine-like society could the mass media not replace religion but reinforce it and be entirely good?

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  4. @T - But why would such a society want a mass media? For the media to be mass it would need to grab and sustain attention and draw people into its world view...

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  5. In latin, auctor is he, who provides (augeo). Authority belongs to he who provides. The most important provider is of course that which provides reality.

    German legal scholar Ernst Forsthoff wrote in 1973 that for the State to remain a State it would have to have control over the mass media (auctoritas) and have a nuclear weapon (potestas). The student revolts of the 1960's showed that Western European states had lost their sovereignty to the "American system", which ruled via the mass media.

    The Soviet Union was probably the last sovereign State in the modern sense that it had power over society. But it lost its sovereignty due to economical inviability. Dictatorship doesn't work against consumerism.

    But now that the mass media has supreme control and considering that its power is based on nihilism, i.e. denial of the reality of reality, it is obviously very hard to reintroduce sanity on a large scale. The most likely way is, as you have said, through organic growth in religious communities like the Mormons, who retain immunity to modernism.

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  6. I’ve always thought of the mass media as the “how” as in “that’s how THEY did this to us.”

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