Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Unorthodox guide to media studies

It is not an easy task to go through the great amount literature written in the area of media studies. Even if you’re well versed in reading academic literature, say in history, it’s still hard to make sense of it. In the realm of media studies things are unfolded so that they can be juxtaposed and then explicated. I guess now I know the difference between explaining and explicating. While the former means clearing something up to make it more understandable the latter is all about obscuring and confusing them even more. Ok, but back to media studies. But once you get past the incomprehensible part, it’s quite revealing.
As 90% of media research deals with the U.S. media (or Western media in general) it rests on few core premises. The researchers use many words to describe them but to put it succinctly it looks like this: the U.S. media is skewing things up because it’s part of the ruling elite. The most famous expression of it is Chomsky’s notion of ‘manifacturing consent’. Being unable to prove with concrete evidence that the U.S. media is taking directions from the White House it purports to demonstrate that the media presents issues in such a way that serves interests of the elites, deliberately obscuring possible alternative angles.
One of the favorite subjects of the research done in the 90s was the first Gulf War. How did the media skew the debate at the time? I’ve come across two explanations. The debate was presented as having only two alternatives: either attack Iraq now, or later. But

a) nobody bothered to consider whether Iraq had legitimate claims to Kuwait.
b) nobody wanted to discuss the possibility of negotiations, as oppose to the armed stand off.

And this is presented as some sort of hidden truth that the brave scholar has evinced to the gullible public. The problem with these ‘alternative frameworks for discussion’ is that they’re entirely illusory. It is implied that those options were indeed somehow feasible and the media just didn’t want to explore them. However, their feasibility must be proven first for otherwise it opens up the Pandora box of countless alternative scenarios.
Let me give you an example. Take the last presidential elections: the media was relentlessly discussing what would happen if either candidate wins but nobody bothered to discuss what would happen if monarchy is introduced in the U.S. And guess what – coz it ain’t gonna ever happen.
Like many other disciplines in social sciences, media studies have been hijacked by the Left. Hence those absurd claims about bias where there is none (and conversely don’t expect to find any study that examines the left-wing bias). In order to succeed in this field one has to posses two skills: to be well versed in the leftist dogma and to be able to express his thoughts in a complicated, perplexing manner that passes for ‘academic lingo’. “To live with the wolves one must know to cry like a wolf’ says a Russian saying – I’m slowly learning.


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