You’re either with us, or with the cultural terrorists
Do any of you really care less about what the media thinks about itself? To all the philosophers out there, yes, I get there’s an infinite regress being set up here. I am, after all, in the media talking about the media talking about itself. But forget that for a moment and answer the question. I bet for most of you it’s no. But gauging from the readers’ commentariat of many online publications, for a small, but significant minority of media audiences, it’s a big yes.
What I want to know is: how did such a tedious trend take off? When did the media become obsessed with itself? And, more importantly, when did readers start to mirror this obsession?
Admittedly, I didn’t spend too much time researching the historical roots of this phenomenon. But I have a feeling that although it’s always been around, the media’s obsession with itself, and your obsession with this obsession, really took off during what the media likes to call the ‘Culture Wars’. I’m pretty sure I heard someone at a dinner party crammed with smug lefties say quite authoritatively that the phenomenon had something to do with the rise of a political movement called ‘neo-conservatism’ and the neo-cons’ need for an enemy against which they could define themselves.
This enemy was called ‘the Left’ or more accurately, ‘latte sipping, inner city, tree-hugging, fag-loving, left-liberal elites’, which made them – the neo-cons - ‘the Right’, or, in more precise terms, ‘ignorant, homophobic, war-mongering, moralistic god botherers’.
From what I can gather, the people in these two groups were naturally an opinionated lot, and some of them even got opinion columns in major newspapers. The people that owned and ran these newspapers and magazines seemed to like this a lot because the columnists got very upset with each other which made for good copy.
In fact, it became like the print equivalent of a reality TV show – a bit like Big Brother, where you take opposing personalities and put them in the same room for extended periods and watch them crack the shits. Anyway, what these opinion columnists most liked to talk about were other media commentators which set up this never-ending cycle of the media talking about itself.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, most average punters at first ignored this grandiose, self-referential irrelevance and read the sports pages and their horoscopes. Back in Media World though, these opinion columnists - being the attention-seekers that they are - turned up the hysterics (on the Left this is called polemics) so that even sensible people would be drawn in to their ‘debates’. Even more self-referentially, these ‘debates’ were often about the media and its effects. The fictional Right said that the media caused violence, sexualised children and made them fat; the fictional Left said whatever people with PhDs in Cultural Studies say. Sorry, I’m getting bored.
In the end, the media got what it wanted: media commentators became the new celebrities, and audiences started taking sides. You were either for Andrew Bolt, Piers Ackerman, Miranda Devine, Janet Albrechtsen, or you were against them. You even felt compelled to write letters and emails about it. And then the media commentators would refer to your comments in their columns and blogs until the media-reality loop became complete.
Why I’m telling you all of this is that at that dinner party I mentioned earlier, someone also said that the Culture Wars were “over”. Apparently, since Barack and Kevin got into power, and more importantly that George and John were booted out, there was no longer a “war” to fight. Not caring that much, I just took this person at their word.
But strangely it seems that the media haven’t stopped staring incessantly at their own reflections and neither have the die-hards among their audience who insist on keeping the battle raging.
Just read the letters pages or online comments of our leading publications including this one and you’ll find a lot of banging on about the fictional Left and Right framed in terms of the old Culture Wars – some of it quite insulting. I’m not quite sure why this is still going on, but I think it’s safe to say it’s getting boring.
What can each of us do about this? Here’s an idea for the readers of opinion columns. Just for starters, why not read each contributor’s article without prejudice? Hell, why not engage with the ideas on their own terms rather than being blinded by what you think their values might be? In short, why not try to play the ball and not the man?
I know it’s incredibly arrogant of me – someone in the media, the place where all this crap started – to ask anything of you. But for the sake of normal people who couldn’t care less about this stuff and just want real information and entertainment out of their media, can we all just shut up with this nonsense. I’m starting right now.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…