Monday, July 11, 2011

Scissors Paper Stone 3

Discussing #Murdoch, @paulmasonnews argues that the network defeats the hierarchy. Mason tries to argue that the fall of News International represents a triumph for "the network", with particular reference to Facebook and Twitter. He references a book by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (Pantheon, 1988) (link), and also name-drops Slavoj Žižek.

But of course that's only one possible interpretation of recent events, and only one meaning of the word "network". Reading Adam Curtis's piece from a few months ago, ironically entitled Rupert Murdoch - A Portrait of Satan, we might instead get a picture of News International as (at least until recently) a supremely powerful network, which has now been (perhaps temporally) outmanoeuvred by the establishment hierarchy it for so long tried to subvert.

The establishment probably cares as little about poor Millie Dowler as it does about any foolish and over-sexed footballer. But when her mobile phone turns out to have been hacked, it gives everyone the perfect pretext to express indignation about the scurrilous tactics of a newspaper that has for decades been entertaining the working classes with the foibles of the rich and famous, as well as detailed accounts of crime. (Just read George Orwell on the Decline of the English Murder.)

While we may all deplore the tactics of the News of the World, investigative journalism is one of those activities we all benefit from while turning a blind eye to exactly how it is done. And how are we to hold the establishment to account, if the establishment sets up the rules of the game to make real investigative journalism as difficult and unprofitable as possible? Some moral as well as political dilemmas here.

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