From Benetton to Murdoch: The Culture of Money, Shock and Schlock

Henry Giroux @ Truthout - What C. Wright Mills once termed "the cultural apparatus" matters even more 50 years later.(1) At the dawn of the 21st century, this apparatus has grown into a vast web of media monopolies, which serve to entertain global audiences, set fashion standards, provide information about the world, promote celebrity culture, create consumer desires and occasionally offer insights about existing social problems while holding powerful individuals and institutions accountable. But they do more. They also function as teaching machines, producing and legitimating particular modes of identity while providing the framing mechanisms that drive the questions, interests and values that shape a society. Through the sheer power of their size and ubiquity, the media and its digital extensions influence major institutions, influence the larger culture and reproduce particular social values; they also set standards, exert influence upon politics and often privilege the trivial over the substantive, the consumer over the citizen and the narrowest of interests over larger ethical and social considerations. As the old and new media take over the space of the public and private, they have become a more insistent and aggressive anti-democratic force corrupting politics, demeaning public goods, trading in campaigns of fear, substituting opinions for legitimate argument and turning news outlets into spectacles of pain and perversion, if not worse. Think here of the preponderance of hate radio and television shows that feature the likes of Glenn Beck, Michael Savage and Bill O'Reilly. And bear in mind the narcissistic messages endlessly paraded on realty TV shows. Listen to the often cruel and homophobic nonsense vomited up from the mouths of right-wing luminaries such as Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin and how the mainstream media reports such invective as a serious species of argument. The scandalous example of Rupert Murdoch is a recent case in point where money and greed combined with a politics of corruption and shock to produce a culture of cruelty that tarnished everything it touched. Not only did News Corporation inundate the world with schlock tabloids, it also invaded the privacy and violated the dignity of the British royal family, various celebrities and the victims of the 2005 terrorist attack in London by hacking into their voice mail accounts. And by some accounts, is guilty of the same criminal offense in the United States.(2) But the most offensive hacking News Corporation has done is to hack into people's minds, filling their everyday lives with gossip, spectacles, the relentless sexualization of women and incessant cheerleading for a market-driven society where all that matters is winning and making money.  Read more.


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