Media Degeneration: Mass Media’s Role in the Narrowness of the Debates/Election Coverage , Part I

I feel like I’ve time-warped back to sophomore year classes on Oscar Wilde, Max Nordau and Entartung, the latter’s famous book on degeneration and the disastrous effects of urbanization and decadent art. In many ways, Nordau’s claims, although very tangential, can be applied to how the media currently works – if the media can be viewed as a decadent producing machine wherein “Every single figure strives visibly by some singularity in outline, set, cut or color, to startle attention violently, and imperiously to detain it. Each one wishes to create a strong nervous excitement, no matter whether agreeable or disagreeable.” All media outlets want to create that nervous excitement, but to what end? I believe to the detriment of actual journalism and fact bearing.

Jay Rosen’s article on PressThink about why political coverage is broken has many strong points. Below I have selected what I consider to be the highlights, connected with my own thoughts.

  • “Promoting journalists as insiders in front of the outsiders, the viewers, the electorate…. this is a clue to what’s broken about political coverage in the U.S. and Australia.” –> The talking heads on television have become trusted, authoritative figures shaping the narrative about politics. They question who will win and why they will when, rather than discussing qualifications. They discuss in a sense academic theoretical questions, rather than look at fact and present unbiased answers. It seems to prove they are legitimate and worthy of seeming authoritative. They falsely make their conversations seems philosophical and collegiate, when all they need to be doing is reporting.
  • “The Australian press reframes politics as entertainment, seizing on trivial episodes that amuse or titillate and then blowing them up until they start to seem important.” –> MEMES! Surefire ways for segments and sound bites to go viral and bring more viewers to their station.
  • “In politics, our journalists believe, it is better to be savvy than it is to be honest or correct on the facts.” –> This connects to the first point, about seeming legitimate, collegiate, philosophical – qualities that will attest to the reporters’ “insider authority” which is fabricated/
  • “Production of innocence: This basic message—we’re innocent because we’re uninvolved—isn’t something to be stated once, in a professional code of conduct or an “about” page. It has to be said many times a day in the course of writing and reporting the news. The genre known as He said, she said journalism is perhaps the most familiar example. But so is horse race journalism, in which the master narrative for covering an election is: who’s ahead?  Journalists will tend to favor descriptions of political life that are a.) true, in that verifiable facts support the story; and b.) convenient for the continuous production of their own innocence.” –> Media outlets manipulate story narratives to create debates about insubstantial story lines! Ugh, why do they do this? Beucase they are trying to seem unbiased. How are they not unbiased, because they do not present fact, and they fear correcting falsifications. “Verification in reverse takes established fact and manufactures doubt around it… Rick Perry, is emerging as a climate change denialist,” and media outlets don’t come out and say he is wrong!!!!
  • “Our political and media culture reflects and drives an obsession with who is going to win, rather than who should win.” –> So degeneration is occurring because tepid media outlets are discussing how a candidate is getting elected, creating a falsely, unsubstantiated academic debate.

Topics that were omitted from the debates this cycle: immigration, gun control, the environment and climate change. More to come on those, but you get my main point of why they were omitted. Because media outlets have this charade going wherein they are attempting to prove their worth as educated figures, and in so proving their worth, they create falsely erudite conversations that detract from topics and mislead viewers.



Don’t forget pack behavior of the media. 


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Benjamin A Simon Election 2012 Blog

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