Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Media woe

Tony Blair's speech on politics and the media is everywhere in the media, as you would expect, but in the blogosphere as well. Ninme has gone so far as to promise to name her firstborn Anthony, though I think she's a bit promiscuous with her firstborn's name; I'm sure she's promised that before. Hugh Hewitt just played it all to his listeners and contented himself with a very occasional comment. I can't think of a greater tribute than that for a politician's speech.

I think Blair is right to focus on the technological and market forces that have created the context in which the modern media work. I wrote about this here concluding that the point of view adopted particularly by the television and its need to evoke sympathy, empathy and pity above all else was dangerous because it fatally weakened us.

A view dominated by sympathy is extremely limited. Precisely because it has such a hold over us, it is a great impediment to understanding. It distorts perspective; it does not allow the individual events to take their place in a longer and broader view. It reverses the visual logic in Egyptian murals by making the foot-soldier thrice the size of all the other figures in the landscape thus rendering the scene incomprehensible. He had to fight, and he died - that's all, apart from the pity, we will get. It also leads to passivity because it is a litany of helplessness and a rollcall of victims. Since we cannot, through this eyeglass, even glimpse the elements that led to the decisions distantly made; since the potentials averted by those decisions are invisible and weightless, how can that suffering appear if not senseless and cruel?

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