14 January 2011

The media and information

Among the Left there is little doubt that the mass-access media functions for the most part to reinforce the capitalist order.

The analyses of how that is precisely brought about are well known and I won’t rehearse the arguments here. What I would like to do in this post is to introduce a distinction, which also throws up a contradiction in the present age.

On the one hand, we have the ability with the aid of the new electronic media (embracing blogs, internet forums, etc) to access hitherto unprecedented amounts of information in the form of raw material relating to social and political matters. By actively seeking out such information, I am better informed today than ever before. And if further proof of this point is needed, people need only look at the Wikileaks exposures, the wider Assange case or the more recent infiltration of environmental groups by police spies to see that key facts (or alleged facts)can be exchanged directly between citizens.

When socialists talk about media bias what they are referring to is how information is synthesised in newsprint, on radio and on TV. The creation of digestible meaning out of the raw material of information by news organisations involves selection, omission, choice of terminology and comparison, etc. In fact any attempt to provide information to others involves synthesis. For example in a recent post I juxtaposed the Woollard and Tomlinson cases in a single contribution to produce a particular meaning: I did not introduce any information which was new to most readers.

The complaint is that the media corporation synthesise information in a particular way to convey pro-capitalist and conservative meanings. The vast majority of ordinary people never get beyond the reception of this pre-packed synthesised information in the mass media, all of which has been put together by commercial and state bodies.

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