Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Murdoch and his ilk

Together with many others, I rejoice at the difficulties that Rupert Murdoch is encountering in Britain. No single individual, whatever his politics, should have so much control over the media. I doubt, though, that the standards of British popular journalism, already abysmal when I lived in London in the 1960s. will improve. The other tabloids will continue on their merry way. And new ones will probably spring up to fill the void.

As I say, I have no love for Rupert Murdoch. Still, I must note what I view as a simplistic approach on the part of our intelligentsia, and that is to personalize the presumed forces of darkness. If only, the refrain goes, we could get rid of Roger Ailes, Glenn Beck, and/or the Koch brothers (the names change over time), all would be well and the country could resume the progressive path that is its natural destiny.

This conviction goes together with the much cherished liberal notion that their view is "reality-based," responding only to facts, while the opponents simply obey the dictates of their ideology, Alas, no single political orientation has a monopoly on reality--elements of it are recognized by almost all political factions,

Why then do so many liberals cling to this dogmatic notion that only their view is indubitably correct? There are two factors: 1) their reluctance to engage in give and take with those holding other views, resulting in a preaching-to-the-converted strategy; and 2) the stubborn belief in the inevitability of progress.

Doubtless I will be accused of being a conservative. I am not. But such accusations are all too typical of the mind-set that I am seeking to describe. Adepts of this view, convinced of the rightness of their own convictions, simply find it difficult to understand the motivations and thought processes of those who do not agree with them.
Were they to do so, they would be in a stronger position.



Blogger Burk said...

Hi, Wayne-

You have every right to be a conservative, or not, as the case may be. The problem that your post brings up is the loss of free speech and free politics to the politics and speech of money.

If all views were openly expressed and considered in the agora, that would be one thing, but if it is the rich who rule the airwaves and print, force-feeding a docile populace their ideology of .. the rich are better than everyone else, taxing "job creators" is evil, government is evil, etc., then we have a problem, both with our discourse and with our politics.

The conservatives you point to are not Joe Blow Conservative. They assiduously use their, in many cases ill-gotten, gains to buy megaphones that subvert the media and political system.

8:47 AM  
Blogger Thomas Kraemer said...

I think both liberals and conservatives feel the emotion of Schadenfreude when political opponents stumble publically. I also think that both have a religious-like conviction to their own position, which is a trait that is hard-wired into the average brain.

12:24 PM  
Blogger Dyneslines said...

I think that Thomas is right that both conservatives and liberals have a quasireligious conviction of certainty, and are therefore impervious to their opponents' views. However, conservatives have a sense of complexity and limitation--perhaps too much so in view of the problems that assail us. For their part liberals still cling to an optimistic view of progress, and consequently are puzzled when obstructions appear. Hence the need for demon figures, such as Murdoch, Glenn Beck and others who presumably using their money and power to divert the course of history from its otherwise inevitable course.

I don't see that the conservative media moguls have achieved a monopoly on free speech in Britain or the US. There is always the New York Times, the Washington Post, MSNBC and so forth--not to forget the blogosphere. With Berlusconi in Italy it may be different; but that is one of the reasons why Italy is in crisis now.

When all is said and done, my key point is this: functions trump individuals. When and if Murdoch is gone, a consummation devoutly to be desired, the niche he occupied will be taken by others. As always, nirvana is far, far away.

1:22 PM  
Anonymous David Dalton said...

Certainly the left is capable of becoming detached from reality and has in the past. The academic left went looney back in the Foucaultian postmodernist era. The gay left went looney during the Sex Panic era.

But, during the last 10 years or so, the claims of the left to be reality based are, well, reality based. Those claims have to do with being right about deregulation and the ideological notions of an infallible market, right about the Iraq war and the lies that sold it, right about the vast right-wing conspiracy with its Koch-funded propaganda tanks and the Murdoch-owned propaganda-retailing and dark-ops units. Etc.

I think that you, as an academic, have a deep bias toward principles of parity and symmetry and equivalence that don't always apply. At present, not only is that bias making you just plain wrong, it's blinding you and others to the dangers posed by today's right-wing extremists.

6:17 PM  
Blogger Dyneslines said...

It is interesting that the meme of the "reality-based community" is recent, going back only to 2004. In an article in the New York Times Magazine the liberal writer Ron Suskind quoted an unnamed Bush-administration source as asserting that his group could, in effect, simply make up reality. This is a somewhat slender foundation for what has become a widely embraced liberal mantra.

In my youth, those on the left would never have accepted such a restrictive stipulation. Their hopes were for transformation, as we moved forward together towards a better world characterized by equality, justice, and prosperity for all. The reality of the squalid present in which these things were absent was precisely what we should NOT settle for.

Put differently, our three wars, in Afghanistan, Iraq. and Libya, are indeed a reality, but not one to be proud of.

A rather different concept stems from Freudian psychoanalysis. where the reality principle is supposed to describe a situation compelling the individual to defer instant gratification. Ostensibly, the reality principle is the factual governor of the actions taken by the ego, and always opposes the pleasure principle of the Id.

Here again, reality is something of a grim necessity rather than a badge of superior discernment.

8:09 PM  

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