Wednesday, August 05, 2009

response to comments 

JHD wrote:

The reason I pay attention to the Times or BBC World or the Guardian more than lefty blogs is precisely that they typically -don't- share my perspective on things, yet are nonetheless read by many more people. I prefer my "media criticism" to come from the ground up, to be based in each article, rather than to comfort myself that there is no chance the New York Times could ever in a million years do competent or useful reporting within its ideological/class strictures. This allows for the shades of gray that I do feel are significant. Hersh at the New Yorker, subsisting among assholes, would be another example.

I'm talking about "media criticism" of the per issue or per article variety. I'm not even talking about "media criticism" at all. What I'm saying is that an analysis of the structure of the media system can be made and is a useful tool for understanding why you get the outcomes you get in the media.

There is a world of difference between the work of a group like FAIR or Media Matters and the work of people like Chomsky, Bagdikian, Herman, McChesney, Norman Solomon, etc. Most of FAIR's work is in fact an application of the Chomsky/Herman model to the particular stories that the media system generates on an week to week basis.

But if you don't have any structural understanding of social phenomena, you're left without any organizing principle with which to analyse particular events. Your stated preference for taking each article as it comes, isn't really a preference at all, you just lack the conceptual tools necessary for seeing things from a more coherent perspective. The question: "how can people like X write things like Y" is the starting point for an inquiry that can lead to the acquisition of those tools. Clearly things don't make sense given the concepts and assumptions you're working with, so perhaps its time to get new concepts. The tools you have are inadequate to the task at hand.

This sort of question was what we all began asking when this blog started. And what other blogs like Atrios, Digby, Kos, etc. continually ask. One of the legacies of the Bush presidency is that it created too much of a gap between how the world actually worked and how many of us believed it to work at the time. Now one can either throw one's hands up in the air and satisfy oneself with having stated the question, as all the pwog blogs continue to do, or you can press deeper and try to answer the question.

What's so ungodly maddening about libloggers is that even through all of this horror, none of it caused any re-examination of basic assumptions, and they seemingly never tire of being confused and outraged about the same things over and over again. And while they continually mock the right for painting them as DFH's, they would rather drink acid than actually bother to attempt an understanding of ideas to the left of the ones they currently hold. This sort of willful ignorance is bad enough on its own, but ultimately it leads to strategic and tactical incoherence that retards progress and keeps the right breathing oxygen.

No one is contesting that NYT can and does occasionally do useful reporting of "facts", whatever the fuck those are. Your original post was about an op-ed, not reportage. I don't really see what a "comfort" it is that the NYT is extremely unlikely to produce something that would fall outside the doctrinal system. The NYT is useful for knowing some things. If you want to know what 1st tier elites want the 2nd tier to think, then you can pick up a copy of the Times and be well-informed about that. If you care to monitor the currents and eddies of elite opinion, NYT is great for that. And that can actually be useful, especially to people who are mapping strategy or devising tactics on how to change things from below.

But the irony of the implication of your paragraph, that your approach is somehow judicious to each individual case, while I'm off in my left-media ghetto unwilling to hear ideas outside the ones I currently I hold, is really astonishing. From my point-of-view, anyone without a structural analysis of social systems cannot see the forest for the trees. I'm telling you there's a whole forest out there if you care to look, and you're staring at a tree insinuating that I'm a victim of parochialism and ideological conformity.

I'd be the last person to deny that there's shades of gray in any aspect of human endeavor. I see shades of gray all the time, we're just working with totally different definitions of black and white. And just because individual things are complex and don't fit neatly into any categories that anyone's devised, doesn't mean that identifiable structures and patterns don't exist.

fwiw: Herman's update and defense of the propaganda model.


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