04 May 2006

This long between posts, and all you have is links???

It's springtime, and that means that our lives are in utter and complete chaos. Future life-possibilities tend to change radically and in unpredictable ways about...oh, say, every half hour. Anyway, that's my excuse for the continued quiet here. Rebecca would have a much better excuse, as she's the one travelling all over the world, but she seems to post with regularity.

I've been wanting to say something about Stephen Colbert's keynote at the Whitehouse correspondents dinner, but I think Paul has all the bases covered there.

And I have all sorts of commentary on the topic of grading/politics broached recently by TMcD.

But I suppose if you're reading this blog, then you're likely to have seen those entries anyway. So I'll leave you with one more link. I have had a number of thoughts concerning the Colbert speech bouncing around in my head. They tend to condense into one question: why is it that in American culture and politics today the only form of political critique that resonates is one that comes through humour? I swear: during 04-05, The Daily Show was my salvation; I'm not sure where I would have been without it. Despite the fact that it's comedy (and I'm not a big comedy fan), it always seemed like a refuge – the one place where one could find some reason.

This Salon piece helps to provide part of an answer, at least for me. I've been screaming for years that the 'liberal media' monikor is the most bogus political invention in recent history. If you'd asked me whether the MSM (when did this acronym get invented, by the way, I feel like I'm late to the party) failed in its duties over the past 5 years I would have unflinchingly said yes. But I had no idea how bad the picture really is. The article doesn't so much make an argument as it strings together a series of facts, the weight of which becomes simply unbearably before you are even half way through.

The bigger question that the article fails to pose – but which I will pose to you, gentle and brilliant readers – is what do we do now? Some might suggest that the MSM must return to being an independent-minded, critical-thinking, watchdog of government. But I think that ship has sailed. The Bush administration and Fox News have simply changed the terrain too fundamentally for it to be possible to 'go back'. There is no longer a space above the partisan fray. It's odd, then, that reading the 'partisan' newspapers in the UK, they come across as less unified in their perspective than American newspapers today (e.g. the Guardian criticises both Labour and the far-left more often than the Washington Post criticises the Bush administration). So is a European media model the American future? I'm not making a case for it because I don't have the arguments or evidence, but if that's not the trajectory, then what is?


dan said...

maybe more independent media. like, say, web-logs? the more we all get our news from the daily show and a dozen blogs, the more we're contributing to THE REVOLUTION!

i'm not trying to over-simplify, but i seriously believe in the power of the internet to challenge MSM (i know, i only heard this acronym recently myself...works for me!). why, just look at stories linked from this very blog after hurricane Katrina...so many dimensions to every major news story. let alone the many over-looked narratives that don't make it through the news filter.

Tarn said...

In the Washington Post on Thursday?, there was an article about how people approach their news outlets with political bias in mind. There was some [albeit not-that-scientific] survey conducted that asked participants to choose headlines to read. The catch was that all of the headlines were followed by a logo of the broadcast station that was presenting it. What they found was that people chose to watch news clips that came from their preferred network, which is based on a political filter, no matter the headline. In fact, part of the study duplicated the headlines/news pieces and falsified the broadcast network, and still they chose according to network.

I think what's problematic about this idealistic concept of non-spin media is that it's contradictory to our bipartisan political climate in the US. If like in the UK we had numerous strong parties with numerous righteous causes, (not lumped together) then I think media might tend to follow as well. In which case, the public might have more access to information, be it spin, no-spin, party-identified, etc. Whatever it is, we just need more information.

Frances said...

I like Sam's idea of returning to a partisan press in the US. The neutral posture that the media assume in the US is misleading and debilitating. It renders the media unable to cover facts when they have, as Colbert put it, a "liberal bias." Liberal leaning facts must be suppressed or otherwise counterbalanced by pseudo-equivalent right-leaning facts.

But in the meantime I think the rise of the internet and the left blogosphere really has a transformative effect, as Dan observes. It puts pressure on the MSM that helps to counterbalance the enormous and longstanding pressure they've received from the political right. One has only to look at the pitiful wails from Richard Cohen's column in today's Washington Post to see the effects. The pressure will have be beneficial, even if Cohen and his ilk spend a lot of time whining about it.