Sep 7, 2009

The Ritualistic Cults of Olbermann, O'Reilly, et al.

Sections from James Carey and Harold Innis readings for this week reminded me of the proliferation of opinion media on mainstream American ‘news’ channels. When speaking of the Ritualistic View of Communication, Carey calls it a “sacred ceremony drawing people together in fellowship and commonality” and when speaking of Time-Based Media, Innis wrote that they often create or re-enforce social hierarchies. In fact, one of the questions Innis poses about the role of media in society is to ask what forms of power said media encourages. In relation to all of these ideas, the Olbermanns and O’Reillys of the world do not really challenge and encourage intelligent thought among their audiences. Instead, the viewers are simply seeing and hearing what they want to hear. They watch these programs as a form of ritual where they see representations of their shared beliefs. When comparing media to religion, Carey, says the Ritualistic View of communication is less like a sermon which challenges thoughts and incites conversation, and more like a prayer, chant, or ceremony. Thus, watching these programs is less learning and more memorization of the facts and ideas you want, creating a mob mentality to rally around a certain ideology. As Innis and Carey both state, these methods of communication are more about maintaining a social order than about intelligent dialogue. Thus, when Innis asks what power structures the form of media encourages the answer in terms of the cable commentators, is that they encourage the status quo. They encourage the notion of a dichotomous America ruled by one party or another. There is little room for the people in the periphery to create change through the challenge ideas represented by a possible new media. In this way, it can be argued that the American system of propaganda is reverting back to the primitive stimulus-response model that Weaver spoke of.

1 comment:

  1. That's a really interesting point. It reminds me a lot of what we were talking about in Media Writing about the objective journalist versus the opinion writer.

    I did my undergraduate senior thesis in documentary film ethics. One of the major debates among documentary practices scholars was the question: can you ever be truly objective? Of course this question permeates all kinds of disciplines. In documentary, there was a recent trend to throw objectivity out the window and be completely upfront with your (the filmmaker's) own biases by using filmic techniques like doing your own voice-over, acting in your own film, letting the audience hear your voice asking the questions, etc. Sometimes taking bias to the extreme can be more honest than feigning objectivity.

    I'm definitely not condoning O'Reilly, Olbermann, etc. just trying to complicate the issue of objectivity :)