Thursday, May 25, 2006

Media, Michael Moore and Paradoxial Reality

Once I tried to find information about George W. Bush’s State of the Union speech thus I went to the White House’s web page. This was not my first time when I was looking for the certain page hence I remembered that address www.whitehouse.com used to be some kind of a porn domain, now it is called America’s free speech forum, so I did not try that. However, instead of typing the correct address, that is www.whitehouse.gov, I made a mistake and I wrote www.whitehouse.org that is actually a page that makes fun of the whole presidential institution. Graphics were quite convincing thus I believed that I was in the right place and I even found State of the Union speech. It took me a minute to realize that I was fooled. This is an example of media’s ability to create realities. In this case it was finally quite obvious that www.whitehouse.org does not describe reality but on the other hand it would be easy to make just slight changes to the real domain and people could take that information as truth. That is to say media creates reality every day: they give us pieces to collect and solve the puzzle that is our reality and picture of the world.

As well as all the documents or TV programs generally also Michael Moore’s political movie Fahrenheit 9/11 is an attempt to create a reality. Basically Moore’s idea is to criticize Bush’s administration and thus to prevent his re-election. Many scholars claim that Moore is a populist director and I agree with them. He very selectively collects the material that fits into his picture of the world and the movie is edited with this doctrine. Although it is difficult to prove where is the line of populism and objectivity. Actually all the material that is produced is a sort of propaganda: there is certain goal to have effect on people’s minds.

The paradoxical reality of media is that even when the media tries to tell “the truth” its original meaning changes. In other words one cannot describe “the truth” because there is no such thing. We all are individuals with a different kind of picture of the world: what is a reality for one is an unreality for another. One cannot see the colors in the same way with others so how could they agree with such a difficult concept as politics? According to John Collins and Ross Glover we are all targets for language, and we are all affected by it as well. Regardless of the truth of the words, language produces effects beyond its meaning (Collins and Glover 2002, p. 2). As one might expect media, not always if ever, tries to describe reality because its financial supporters and owners have their own preferences and goals. Under these circumstances the paradox is that when trying to tell the truth media changes the truth and creates its reality.

Some Moore’s political opponents are almost as populists and un-academic as Moore. Cristopher Hitchens criticizes Moore’s movie and he writes that Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, a big lie and a big misrepresentation, based on leaden sarcasm, irony, fantasies and propaganda. Hitchens puts that: “At least Moore’s film should put the shameful purveyors of that last theory back in their paranoid box”. (http://www.slate.com/id/2102723/). Debbie Schlussel instead quotes Mark Twain who said: “There are lies, damn lies and statistics”. She continues on her column that now there are lies, damn lies and Michael Moore “documentaries”. She puts that Moore’s movie is full of: “lies, half-truths, far-left wackos and kooks as experts, snarky cheap shots, and just plain nonsense”. (http://www.debbieschlussel.com /columns/ column0625. shtml). Hence both Hitchens and Schlussel use the same kind of populist tricks as Moore. They do not see anything good on Moore’s production and in addition they use insulting language that is to declare that Moore is wrong because he is an idiot. It goes without saying that this does not fulfill the rules of academic debate or conversation. Neither side has proper arguments that could prove their thoughts correctly. Thus it is an endless rhetorical race based on an idea to convince the public with the power of media.

What should the audience think about these columns and Moore’s movie? Moore claims that Bush’s administration lies. On the other hand Hitchens and Schlussel presents that Moore lies. As a rule it seems to be better not to focus on advocacy media if one wants to find out “the truth”. In particular advocacy media intentionally seeks an audience of people who share their views: namely it even does not try to be neutral at all. Even though mainstream media is claimed to be represented by college-educated white males from the upper middle class it gives a better picture than conservative or liberal ends of the political spectrum. (Welch etc. 2006, p.139). Finally it should be science’s mission to be objective, neutral and find out the truth. Unfortunately for the most part it is impossible for a human to be totally neutral: even researchers have their own preferences and goals. Furthermore if there is as objective research as it is possible it is media that is going to present it to publicity. That is to say, generally speaking, that media controls political agenda and who controls media has access to control masses. It is a good part of representative democracy that there are elites that have to compete against each other thus people can choose between different media and elites.

To conclude, it is difficult to define a reality or a truth. In that case media is playing the main role when creating the reality. As constructivist scholars Colin and Glover proves language is the crucial factor of political action. We all are targets of language: after all we are parts of the reality. Orwellian newspeak develops new definitions of words thus it helps the totalitarian system to control its citizens (Orwell 1990, p.312-326). Fortunately in representative democracy we have our voice to say how to explain reality and politics. As follows: By criticizing Moore’s movie that criticizes “official truth” Schlussel and Hitchens create their part of the reality. Finally, by analyzing and criticizing all of them I am also creating the reality.

Bibliography:

Collins J. & Glover R.: 2004, Collateral Language, New York Press, p.2.

Orwell, George: 1990 (1949), Nineteen Eighty-four, Penguine Books, p. 312-326.

Welch etc.: 2006, Understanding American Govt 8th W/Gerston'S Calif Politics & Govt 8th, Thomson, p. 139.

Internet Sources:

(http://www.slate.com/id/2102723/).

http://www.debbieschlussel.com /columns/ column0625. shtml

1 comment:

Renegade Eye said...

I doubt if neutrality is in the vocabulary of Moore or Hitch.

Follow the $$. Hitch makes his living, giving neocons left cover. Moore is dependant on left-liberal support.