Monday, November 29, 2010

Tom Wolfe on the Media and its "Narrative"

One thing that Jon Stewart at the Daily show has been very successful at is skewering the news media for its adherence to a fixed narrative for covering current events.It is nothing new really, as Tom Wolfe wrote in The Right Stuff about the press coverage of the Mercury Seven in the late 50's early 60's:

"It was as if the press in America, for all its vaunted independence, were a great colonial animal, an animal made up of countless clustered organisms responding to a central nervous system. In the late 1950's (as in the late 1970's) the animal seemed determined that in all matters of national importance the proper emotion, the seemly sentiment, the fitting moral tone, should be established and should prevail; and all information that muddied the tone and weakened the feeling should simply be thrown down the memory hole. In a later period this impulse of the animal would take the form of blazing indignation about corruption, abuses of power, and even minor ethical lapses, among public officials; here, in April of 1959, it took the form of a blazing patriotic passion for the seven test pilots who had volunteered to go into space. In either case, the animal's fundamental concern remained the same: the public, the populace, the citizenry, must be provided with the correct feelings! One might regard this animal as the consummate hypocritical Victorian gent. Sentiments that one scarcely gives a second thought to in one's private life are nevertheless insisted upon in all public utterances. (And this grave gent lives on in excellent health.)"

The problem today is that cable news in particular has been taken over by ideological hacks bent on take the narrative concept to an extreme not seen since the 19th century partisan newspapers and never so widely disseminated.

However, there are ordinary rational citizens trying to push back in a true grass-roots fashion. It first began on, of all places, the Daily Show message boards and now has its own site, check it out.

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