Total Propaganda: From Mass Culture to Popular Culture

By Alex S. Edelstein | Go to book overview

PART III
Mediaprop FROM BROADCASTING TO JOURNALISTIC NIRVANAS

The new mediaprop operates as much at the limits of the popular culture as in its mainstream, and this produces old propaganda as well as new. It can be reasoned that an institution that operates under the protection of the First Amendment should be far more a carrier of the new propaganda than the old, but this would discount diversity and choice.

The most venal oldprop is seen in the angerprop that is vented on talk radio. Hosts such as Don Imus, G. Gordon Liddy, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Reagan, and Howard Stern are talkpropsters of the Apocalypse -- purveyors of sarcasm, violence, snideness, bias, and vulgarity; they minimize politicians, parties, and institutions and feed on the alienation of their audiences.

Mainstream journalists continue to seek nirvanas in their adoptions of techniques of objectivity, the new journalism, and public and civic journalism. But journalists who once were anointed as insiders now are once removed, and as such they are caught up in their private searches for nirvanas. They have become alienated from many of their sources and wide sectors of their audiences.

Network television news has also lost much of its mass appeal, devolving into infotainmentprop, simulated reality, and paid news. Certainly there is potential for newprop where new media forms reach out to new audiences, but one must question whether this brings more members into the popular culture or simply creates an oldprop theater of the bizarre.

Meanwhile, mediaprop is under attack as the bearer of messages, and its critics want to shoot the messengers. One example is the researchprop that condemns media for desensitizing children to violence and exploiting the popular culture with lurid sex and pornography. But both violence and pornography are largely in the eyes of the beholders.

Much of the criticism of mediaprop is itself oldprop, a function of old research paradigms and old political bromides. Critics do not look often enough beyond the media for explanations of aberrant cultural behaviors; this is an oldprop of omission, for it fails to address real problems.

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