Search results for "propaganda "

Draft review notes #3

Author: joe

Saturday, 12 September, 2009 - 15:17

[Some contextual notes for my PhD, regarding the status of participatory media in academia and industry]

So the everyday is always written off: the mass produce trash culture without quality; they fail to rise up and revolt and against the elites; and they are deceived by machinations against which they have no real defence.

A key characteristic of the critiques of the everyday is their insistance on the schism between the real and the ideal, or between appearance and reality. Marxist thought constantly seeks to portray the common man as a duped fool, a donkey of a man suffering under false consciousness: if only we could make him see the world as it truly is, without the miasma of ideology to cloud and befuddle his judgement and ability to act, then he might rise up and take for himself the world that is truly his.

The critique of propaganda and ideology also hinges on the notion that the popular consciousness cannot adequately grasp the real forces, determining events behind the scenes, hidden from view, available only to the most critically engaged and forensically committed minds. Chomsky's line is exemplary of this - his work is largely characterised by 'exposures' of hidden motives and explanatory forces which most other people fail to notice, presumably because they either choose to ignore the evidence or are too taken up in the ideological hegemony to be able to transcend the deceit.

The paragon of this mode of critique is Habermas, who seems determined to project an image of a utopian world - the world as it might be - which can only be reached by the most stringently impossible means. Citizens must be competent, capable, engaged, critically objective and rational, yet willing to listen to and understand other subjective views. The object of this rational-critical discourse is a endpoint at which disagreements will have been ironed out, intersubjectivities achieved - and presumably we will all just sit around gazing at each other in a stupor of silence since we'll have no differences to speak of or dialectical positions to bother articulating.

At the heart of Habermas' vision of rational progress to some humanistic utopia is Enlightenment: the rejection of tradition and any authority that is handed down, seen as so much dogma, in favour of rationally justifiable positions and truths which are available to us to produce without reference to the tyranny of conservatism and prejudice. What an attractive notion - the worldview of science itself, which takes no article on faith, but only on falsifiable and empirical merit!

I find it almost irresistable - the restive rejection of the chains of the past, and the embrace of a world made of iron ration and reason... and yet, yet... why must we constantly fall for this notion that the world is or should be other than it is? What is it about the way of the world that we must always feel it is inadequate? Why must we diagnose the life of the everyday world as somehow being wrong?

Categories: reality, appearance, idealism, Habermas, ration, reason, utopia, Chomsky, Marx, media, phd, politics, propaganda, ideology, revolution,
Comments: 0

Draft review notes #2

Author: joe

Wednesday, 02 September, 2009 - 21:45

[Some contextual notes for my PhD, regarding the status of participatory media in academia and industry]

So much for the pressure to conserve industry interests: capital ensures 'quality' and disseminates self-perpetuating ideological discourses, while the vernacular and the demotic voices are marginalised and reminded of their powerlessness. It isn't novel to diagnose the manipulative and ideological nature of the propaganda mechanisms which capital-oriented discourses mobilise, nor to articulate the ugly underlying fact that the economic capital base underlies and mutually reinforces the ideological superstructure of the persuasive agenda. Much of the substance of those liberal-arts-based media studies degrees which are chastised by the industry for being frivolous and out of touch (because they aren't authentically in touch with industry 'practice'), or misleading and duplicitous (because they hypocritically sell themselves as routes into industry), are often built around reworkings of these Chomskian or Marxist critiques of society, industry, and government.

Even so, Lenin's tantalising question 'what is to be done' is seldom asked in any kind of forceful way since the money follows political neutrality and technocracy. Discourses of academic detachment and objectivity are put in the service of the advancement of natural sciences or technological innovation, which not only have the convenient habit of disclaiming political interest or historical contingency, but of knowing full well that committing to an overtly apolitical or compliant agenda will both attract and perpetuate future funding.

It has always seemed to me that the grand tasks of 'fighting the superstructure' or 'fighting the base' are far too nebulous and mountainous tasks for the individual to countenance - I absolutely identify with Ulrich Beck's description of modern life as tragic in the sense that the world seems to be too big for any one of us to change it. How might one become a revolutionary? What could that possibly mean at a time when I barely have time to charge my laptop let alone charge my political consciousness? It is one thing to make the argument when the opportunity arises: it is another to be a revolutionary.

That question that so dogs Marxists: why does the common man and woman not rise up and take back what has been confiscated from them? Perhaps the thought that they must, later on today, go home and cook dinner; or that the freedom one has to buy contentment in the form of a iPhone or a hairdo might not be wholly delusional after all; perhaps the simple graspable facts of living are more immediate and more real than the abstract ideals to which revolutionaries must sacrifice their lives. What are these poor addled consumers to do?

Categories: Chomsky, Marx, media, politics, propaganda, ideology, academia, revolution, what-is-to-be-done,
Comments: 2

Draft review notes #1

Author: joe

Saturday, 29 August, 2009 - 10:09

[Some contextual notes for my PhD, regarding the status of participatory media in academia and industry]

In the early 2000s, following the dot-com crash, the press, the broadcasting, music and publishing industries reassured themselves that 'online' would never seriously encroach onto their activities. I was working in a vocationally oriented university department, among people who repeated and reinforced those attitudes circulated in the received wisdom of industry promotional departments and analysts. The line 'this isn't a media studies degree, it's a vocational degree' was often used when I suggested that we didn't encourage students enough to understand conceptually what they were doing when engaged in 'mediation'. Just as the media industry now disparages degree courses specialising in media, so then, lecturers in vocational subjects tended to be people who had spent some time working in industry and were keen to 'give something back' by teaching part-time, and thereby rescuing industry training from 'out-of-touch' academics.

The attitudes which were thus perpetuated are still familiar: serious journalists should write for print, since online could only ever offer dumbed-down copy and readers never devote time to reading long articles on screen; filmmakers should concentrate on the photographic medium because digital video is inauthentic and poorer quality; digital audio is too compressed to offer the superior listening experience of analogue, and serious musicians will always have a safer career when signed up for a deal in the industry rather than going it alone; online video can't compete with the appeal of broadcast TV - the list of supposedly self-evident truths go on. These truths were enacted in a practical way in the university simply by encouraging the 'left-over' students to take the online modules, allowing the options in broadcasting and journalism to be set aside for the ablest and most ambitious students.

Supporting 'meme-plexes' manifest themselves, sometimes periphally as the common-sense background, sometimes as a moral panic or a manichean harangue, always helping to substantiate the dominant assumptions: piracy is not only theft, but it supports organised crime - as though sharing your files will perpetuate the drug industry or terrorism; or, online sources are unreliable and must be double-checked against 'proper' offline sources such as books; or, online spaces are dangerous - paedophiles stalk your children, hackers are stealing your identity, gamers are getting disturbed into copycat murder-sprees, and even you - yes you, the average, middle-of-the-road, normal, everyday surfer - even you are losing just a little more of your social skills, and maybe even just a little but more of your humanity, every moment you sit in front of your computer screen.

Categories: phd, media, participatory media, academia, propaganda,
Comments: 0

Symbolic Exchange and The Trap

Author: joe

Sunday, 11 March, 2007 - 23:10

I was 17 when the Berlin wall was flooded over by hordes of retro 80s-permed East-Germans. I was at the house of my first girl-friend and it may not be unconnected that I believed that I lived in a world where things got better with time - that we're on some (as I only later learned cynically to call it) Hegelian journey to an ever better world.

I was 26 when I finally sat down and got my head around Paul Rabinow's presentation of Chomsky vs Foucault and (as he saw it) their opposing views of the examinability of human nature. By this time I was corroded enough to be swept along by Foucault's deconstruction of the institutional motives behind every instance of human discourse, but intellectually curious enough to wonder whether Chomsky wasn't onto something with his fundamentally structuralist proposition that human nature might be a knowable thing.

I'm not sure that being 34 and watching Adam Curtis's latest adventure into televisual propaganda that is 'The Trap' will be as seminal, but it is worth comment right now. I love his programmes, but in a somewhat problematic elitist manner, I have 'issues' with this one.

Before watching I heard at least two radio reviews of it in which it was praised for being intelligent for TV, but damned for its flaws in polemic. However, in watching it I was unprepared for my over-riding response - which was that it was surprising that Foucault would make such good telly.

Televisually it is journalism - not gonzo, but nevertheless featurish in its one-sidedness - but as close to polyphony as TV gets, with its intersection between (unattributed and frustratingly unverifiably quoted) images and deterministically argued voiceover.

As a media lecturer it is hard to escape the feeling that this is going to be a great clip to illustrate the Foucauldian relationship between discourse and power, especially in relation to the psychiatric industry's will to legitimacy. The downer in all this though, is the sick feeling at the back of my throat that, not unlike the discourses Curtis damns, this is an egregious example of manipulation and self-serving ellipsis of the worst kind - possibly inescapable due to the simulative medium for which it was made (can't let my distaste for TV pass by without comment), but partly too, of course, because Curtis can't afford a dissenting voice.

If anyone with half a grasp of political history were to be interviewed with full knowledge of Curtis's agenda, they would necessarily point out that his notion that John Nash is the cause of modern woes is ludicrous; his example of the prisoner dilemma is as far from the usual prisoner's dilemma as you could get; the idea that the psychiatric profession's attempt to gain legitimacy in the 80s was an attempt at a 'new kind of control' is a desperate form of amnesia; and his conflation of rationality and impersonality is deeply simplistic.

Curtis problematised Nash's version of game theory by presenting his schizophrenia, but his argument that his equations went on to become the basis for an era of cold war politics is unsubstantiated. The prisoner dilemma as most of us know it shows that collaboration is a better strategy than betrayal, even if for selfish motives - and in the so-called deterministic world of the gene, what is the difference between selfishness and selfish altruism? Neither selfishness nor altruism exist at the mathematical level that game theory addresses. The psychiatric industry was exposed in Foucault's genealogy of the doctrine as being the will to power from its inception in the Enlightenment - far from a new thing in the 80s. And finally, since rationality, as predicated on human logic, is merely a constructed, self-negating reflexive system, recognised now by most mathematical and scientific methodologies, to portray it as somehow 'inhuman' is stereotypical and simple.

However, to conclude in as elitist a fashion as I began, I recommend this programme to anyone who hasn't yet realised that the world is not getting better as we hurtle inevitably towards the implosion predicted by last weeks' obituary filler, your friend and mine, Jean Baudrillard. I await with interest to hear what exactly 'The Trap' is, if it is not that we tend to unquestioningly believe what the TV tells us, whether the voice is a manipulative politician, or a manipulative film-maker.

Categories: adam-curtis, jean-baudrillard, TV, propaganda, michel-foucault, freedom, manipulation, game-theory,
Comments: 2