News on Empire

I have been participating in a debate over on Larvatus Prodeo. Mark’s original post was on a conflict between a right wing blogger and a journalist.

Another right wing blogger made this statement:

Antony, a jouirnalist’s job is not “to challenge authority” or “to reform society” — it’s to inform the public

Which got me thinking about the relation between news reporting media institutions and their relation to Empire and in the context of consumers of news being constituent of the multitude. Here is my response:

Actually the role of the media to allow the public to inform themselves. Unless you think there is only one way to write a news story (which, if you do, you are sadly mistaken, and obviously never had much exposure to the workings of any form of media), then there are always multiple accounts of each and every newsworthy event that occurs. To “inform the public,” in the context in is written above, reads suspiciously like an authoritarian mantra out of 1984. Perhaps you think we have a State run media? If the media’s role is to allow the public to inform themselves, then the media must provide a cross-section of different approaches to news-worthy events. A broad cross-section allows the public to select which news they will read and therefore inform themselves on news-worthy events.

This sparked a number of calls from the right wing bloggers that what I wrote was “meaningless,” lol! So I thought I had better explain what I meant:

It is amazing that, as David pointed out, Packer and Murdoch and the Fairfax Board are so thoroughly deceived by the covert rants of left wing ideologues, thus “outwitting the greatest brains in capitalism to bring totalitarian doom to the world.” However, I wasn’t commenting on the qualitative political aspects of journalism, but the relationship between different acounts of news-worthy events (whatever these accounts may be) and the freedom of members of the public to inform themselves. My simple point is: If the public cannot or is restricted from informing themselves, then the situation tends towards a totalitarian distribution of information. Or do you disagree? To “inform the public” is not journalism, it is propaganda.

An example. By way of other sources of information (blogs mainly), it is apparent that the manipulation of the media by the US forces in Iraq (by way of controlling access outside of the ‘green areas’) is an example of the totalitarian distribution of knowledge before it is even manifest as a news story. Totalitarian in this sense deliberately elides the distinction between a form of government and an all encompassing world view. Journalists are offered a ‘total’ imaginary of Iraq that is itself partial. It is also before this ‘total’ imaginary of Iraq is discoursed by either left or right journalists. Any news reports constructed from this imaginary ‘total’ of the situation is constructed to resonate with US Right-eousness, which means that democracy in all countries participating in the WoT suffers severely as a result.

The response, again, was dismissive: “Nonsense.”

The practice of journalists has traditionally been thought of as representing the ‘truth’ of particular news-worthy events. I am attempting to think through the contemporary situation where traditional conceptions of (Platonic) ‘truth’ are not useful for understanding the role of the media. Of course, right wing pundits will always argue that representations of ‘truth’ are possible…