Archive for ‘media’

28 May 2011

Niggemeier. Spiegel. Sex. CDA.

Once again, Stefan Niggemeier presents a fast, enertaining, thoroughly critical discourse analysis, including metaphor analysis, chronological analogies, three-part lists, etc. This time of a Spiegel article on Strauss-Kahn: Spiegel. Sex. Power. Bullshit.

24 May 2011

Journalism and the Political

New book announcement:
Macgilchrist, Felicitas (2011): Journalism and the Political: Discursive tensions in news coverage of Russia. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. (Discourse Approaches to Politics, Society and Culture, Vol. 40) (full price; slightly less expensive)

Summary: Journalism is often thought of as the ‘fourth estate’ of democracy. This book suggests that journalism plays a more radical role in politics, and explores new ways of thinking about news media discourse. It develops an approach to investigating both hegemonic discourse and discursive fissures, inconsistencies and tensions. By analysing international news coverage of post-Soviet Russia, including the Beslan hostage-taking, Gazprom, Litvinenko and human rights issues, it demonstrates the (re)production of the ‘common-sense’ social order in which one particular area of the world is more developed, civilized and democratic than other areas. However, drawing on Laclau, Mouffe and other post-foundational thinkers, it also suggests that journalism is precisely the site where the instability of this global social order becomes visible. The book should be of interest to scholars of discourse analysis, journalism and communication studies, cultural studies and political science, and to anyone interested in ‘positive’ discourse analysis and practical counter-discursive strategies.

The thing is, critical discourse analysis has done a huge amount to draw attention to the role of language, and other forms of semiosis, in shaping what counts as politics, as acceptable, as thinkable and “normal”, i.e in what becomes (however temporarily ad precariously) hegemonic. But, how do we now respond to for instance Latour’s call to re-arm? Using very military metaphors, he worries that the critical spirit, now ensnared in deconstruction, may no longer be aligned to the right target.

To remain in the metaphorical atmosphere of the time, military experts constantly revise their strategic doctrines, their contingency plans, the size, direction, technology of their projectiles, of their smart bombs, of their missiles: I wonder why we, we alone, would be saved from those sort of revisions. It does not seem to me that we have been as quick, in academe, to prepare ourselves for new threats, new dangers, new tasks, new targets. Are we not like those mechanical toys that endlessly continue to do the same gesture when everything else has changed around them? Would it not be rather terrible if we were still training young kids–yes, young recruits, young cadets–for wars that cannot be thought, for fighting enemies long gone, for conquering territories that no longer exist and leaving them ill-equipped in the face of threats we have not anticipated, for which we are so thoroughly disarmed? (Latour, Bruno. 2004. “Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern.” Critical Inquiry 30(2): 225-48.)

Journalism and the Political is one attempt to retool. It uses a pinch of deconstruction, a splash of CDA and a dash of (other) post-foundational political/cultural theories to explore the fissures and gaps in what seems to be hegemonic discourse. Perhaps a critical spirit, which forces these fissures into the foreground, can widen the gaps, target new threats, and broaden new possibilities?

13 April 2011

Net neutrality under attack

From Tomothy Carr, Free Press Action Fund, US:

Late last week, the House voted to block the FCC from protecting our right to access an open Internet.

If this measure, called a “resolution of disapproval,” is approved by the Senate and the White House, the FCC would lose its authority to protect our free speech online. This comes at a time when phone and cable companies are already restricting our ability to connect with others and share information.1

We can stop the resolution in the Senate by getting 51 members to stand with us for online freedom:

Tell Your Senators: Defend Our Right to an Open Internet

President Obama has vowed to veto this resolution, but let’s make sure it doesn’t get that far. Take action now to urge your senators to stop it in its tracks.

If we don’t defeat this measure, the FCC will be barred from enforcing its already weak Net Neutrality rules, and from acting in any way to protect Internet users from corporate abuses by AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.

This is not a symbolic congressional exercise — it’s a scorched-earth campaign that leaves Americans at the mercy of a corporate Internet cartel.2

Imagine if these companies could do anything they want, ban any speech they don’t like, charge anything they can get away with, and hold innovation hostage to their profit margins. If this resolution passes, there’s nothing anyone could do about it.

The resolution is filibuster-proof. We need at least 51 senators to beat it. Will your senators stand with us?

Sign this letter to demand that Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand protect our Internet freedom. We will deliver it to their offices in Washington and provide you with tools to spread the word across New York.

Thank you,

Timothy Karr
Campaign Director
Free Press Action Fund

1. FCC Commissioner Michael Copps outlined the recent history of “real threats” to Internet openness during his opening remarks Wednesday before the House Commerce Committee (pdf).

2. To learn more about the impact this would have on all Internet users, read Monday’s Seattle Times editorial, “House GOP Sides with the ‘Haves’ on Net Neutrality.”

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8 April 2011

Psychologising news

BBC World, 12:35 GMT. A story reports on the subdued celebrations of the first cherry blossoms in Japan. Usually the parks are full of karaoke singing groups. But, says the reporter:

Deep within the Japanese psyche is the idea that hardship should be endured together.

That’s the reason for the current subdued activities, says the reporter. The logical conclusion of this would be that if there had been a major catastrophe in, say, Newcastle, with over 12,000 dead, a further 15,000 still missing, a 30km radius around a Newcastle power station evacuated, with the US urging this to be extended to an 80km “protection zone”, Londoners told at one point that their tap water was not safe for babies, massive stretches of land barren, and 500,000 or 600,000 homeless, then people across the UK would be out partying and celebrating as normal?

Perhaps the far more simple explanation offered by one interviewee sitting in a park in Japan is more useful and less reifying of apparent “cultural difference”. She said:

I think a lot of people would feel guilty about those affected by the disaster if they had fun and partied.

6 April 2011

Remembering colonialism in the UK

Working on representations of colonialism in Germany, I’ve been asked recently what Britain’s perspective on its role in imperialism and colonialism is. Today’s Daily Telegraph presents a clear image of an entirely uncritical, unreflective view of the glory of the British empire. A comment piece berates David Cameron for apologising for the British role in Kashmir.

[I]t is the job of a British prime minister, as Cameron knows all too well, to stand up for his country when abroad. He could have pointed out that we gave Pakistan (and indeed the rest of the world) many splendid bequests: parliamentary democracy, superb irrigation systems, excellent roads, the rule of law, the English language and, last but not least, the game of cricket.

Is that the job of the prime minister? I thought it was a more complex affair of negotiations, diplomacy, etc. (and including something about making business deals). Cameron could have pointed out what “we” “gave” Pakistan, writes the Telegraph. This long “we” includes all of today’s British citizens in the “we” of colonialism. Including the Brits of Pakistani origin? “Gave”: so the most important thing to remember about colonialism is the “giving”, not the “taking” of the globe’s natural resources, the arbitrary splitting of traditional collectives, the silencing of local voices, the millions of dead, and the horrors of the slave trade.

The article has more on slavery in a sweep at Tony Blair’s similar attempts to address the colonial legacy:

In fact, our role in slavery is a very complicated one, and certainly not susceptible to Tony Blair’s school of facile analysis. It is true that private merchants were heavily involved. But Britain was the first country to ban the slave trade, on March 25 1807, and thereafter our navy swept the high seas in search of slave traders. We acted in this highly principled and moral way in defiance of wealthy private interests – it was one of the proudest moments in our history.

“Heavily involved”? So the analogy would be that a thief who sweeps the countryside in search of thieves (without in any way being sanctioned for his/her deeds) is acting in a highly principled and moral way? A rapist who sweeps the cities in search of rapists (without in any way being sanctioned for his/her deeds) is acting in a highly principles and moral way. Etc. etc.

That’s quite a different take from the usual Telegraph take on crime: Once a criminal, always a criminal; tough on crime, etc.

4 April 2011

“Arab Spring”

Oliver Kearns on has drawn my attention to a powerfully multimodal critique of the narrative of the “Arab spring” that the mainstream news has been following. Swamppost‘s dynamic map highlights the truly global range of protest. North Africa and the Middle East are there. And so is – by mid-February – South Korea, the USA, the UK, and a long stretch along the eastern coast of Africa.


My point in highlighting this is not necessarily to argue that all protests happening across the world should be understood as developing as part of a homogeneous protest wave – each protest movement has its own particular dynamics and reasons for evolving the way it has. What I am arguing is that the public narrative of an Arab Spring excludes much of the world’s population both from public attention and concern and from discussion of what meaningful political change might look like and how it can be supported by people in other places.

31 March 2011

Cyborg Subjects

Cyborg Subjects, an open source online journal on digital culture, leads with:

On May 26, 2010 The Telegraph reported that a British scientist had been infected by a computer virus. Mark Gasson, of the University of Reading, claimed to be the first human to have come in contact with a technological virus. A chip that is inserted into his hand, which he apparently uses to unlock his mobile phone with, had been “programmed” with a virus that could spread to other technological devices.

Volume #0 considers what the cyborg subject is. Volume #1 should be appearing soon.

30 March 2011

Producing the Echo awards

Stefan Niggemeier gossips about being on the team producing the Echo music awards show. Television as a creativity-destruction-machine. And as a place where creativity does happen. He has a beautiful comment about how it isn’t the concerns of the people involved that cause certain ideas to be cut but the concerns that someone else (lots of someone elses) anticipates that these people might have:

Erstaunlicherweise haben die meisten Menschen, mit denen man diskutieren muss, aber gar nicht selbst Bedenken, sondern antizipieren nur mögliche Bedenken anderer, die sie dann vorsorglich potenzieren. Wenn man das einmal erlebt hat, hat man plötzlich als Zuschauer oder Kritiker doppelt so viel Respekt für jede Idee, die es trotzdem tatsächlich auf den Fernsehschirm schafft.

And I certainly agree with the last sentence above: whenever I observe media being produced, I start to have double as much respect for any idea which actually manages to get through to the screens/pages.

27 March 2011

Pro-democracy protests in Wisconsin

Was looking forward to writing that headline. Amazing joint rallying going on for weeks in Wisconsin, and not a mention in the German mainstream news media. Nor on BBC World, as far as I could see.

23 March 2011

Springtime: The new student rebellions

New book linking together global rebellions and protests, from students in the UK to union rallies in Wisconsin and the revolutions in North Africa. Tania Palmieri & Clare Solomon (Eds.) (2011) Springtime: The New Student Rebellions. Verso.

First account of the momentous student movement that shook the world—in the voices of the students themselves

The autumn and winter of 2010 saw an unprecedented wave of student protests across the UK, in response to the coalition government’s savage cuts in state funding for higher education, cuts which formed the basis for an ideological attack on the nature of education itself. Involving universities and schools, occupations, sit-ins and demonstrations, these protests spread with remarkable speed. Rather than a series of isolated incidents, they formed part of a spreading movement that spans the entire western world: ever since the wall street crash of 2008 there has been growing social and political turbulence in the heartlands of capital. From the US to Europe, students have been in the vanguard of protest against governments’ harsh austerity measures.

Tracing these worldwide protests, this new book explores how the protests spread and how they were organized, through the unprecedented use of social networking media such as facebook and twitter. It looks, too, at events on the ground, the demonstrations, and the police tactics: kettling, cavalry charges and violent assault. From Athens to Rome, San Francisco to London, this new book looks at how the new student protests developed into a strong and challenging movement that demands another way to run the world. Consisting largely of the voices that participated in the struggle, Springtime will become an essential point of reference as the struggles continue and spread.


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