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by Caroline Gaudriault

Has the media become hysterical?

The question can be asked in all seriousness today in a context in which, whenever an event occurs, newspapers, TV stations and magazines jump on it without a thought. Instead of factual news – contextualised, analysed and investigated – what we get is a kind of atomic mushroom cloud.

The news anchor’s smiling face is there to soften us up. Everything is sensational, spectacular, infantile. Everything is consensual, right-minded. Everything is, in a word, well orchestrated. What is this but a huge mise en scène, reality as a masquerade? What do we see but salesmen and women purveying happiness for all, while lecturing us about what’s good and what’s bad? Investigation and knowledge have given way to “debates” to which everyone is invited, but where no one is allowed to speak. Because, after all, everyone has something to say. And, equipped with their press cards, star presenters front what are essentially entertainment shows in which they pose bland questions to our most serious politicians. Berlusconi, currently spending so much of his time in Italian TV studios, is an expert when it comes to applying this strategy. He even organises media breakfasts to make himself popular and, it seems, would be all too willing to stick around to turn the lights out. Since he started his campaign, his ratings have gone up 15 points. We no longer ask why entrepreneurs are interested in the media, which is in such as poor state. The answer, of course, is philanthropy!

The atomic mushroom cloud eventually dissipates in the atmosphere, but its traces contaminate everyone, even the most critically minded among us. All it needs is for one media outlet to publish a story about an event that sells, and the pack is bound to follow. We are choked by the nauseating black smoke wafting off such sensationalised news stories. We once had a certain sensibility to Edward Hopper’s paintings? No more, for the media tells us that his art is poor. Did we once have feelings of compassion for Frenchwoman, Florence Cassez? Now, anything we hear about her can only be a source of irritation. Like a black atomic rain falling from the sky without respite, the news is amorphous and bereft of hierarchy. Everything from the most sentimental human interest stories to the gravest social affairs are presented as if they were worthy of our interest. But we want only to escape into silence, to put up the barriers so that we can we can preserve our love of an artist or our curiosity about the times in which we live.

In the final analysis, the mass media, for this is what I am essentially talking about here, has no news to deliver. But it does have a very precise aim. Like that black rain which, paradoxically, we would like to drink in order to slake the thirst caused by its desiccating effects, this objective gnaws away at us like a cancer. For isn’t the ultimate aim of the media to sell us the idea of society as a tiny handful of oligarchs would like it to be? And when we see crowds of people wandering through museums as if they were browsing in a supermarket, or demonstrating in the streets with whistles in their mouths and children on their shoulders, taking positions on subjects spuriously invented by the media, it seems that the strategy is effective and politics is never far away...

When newspapers sack their editors and replace them with financiers, they are transformed into dead stars whose spectral light is destined to fade and die. Like so many retail managers, editors earn bonuses for cutting costs in the great “news” supermarket. Who, in such a context, would want to invest money in reporters or investigators who seek out background information?

If the money is drying up, at least we still have tradition. Special correspondents selecting the most impressive of angles from which to film their reports, preferably in the wind and rain, courageously filing live broadcasts in the most taxing conditions. Reporters wearing bullet-proof jackets, waiting for orders in requisitioned hotels. But all this is a game. It’s been a long time since the evening news has sprung an original story. That task is left to the few remaining documentary makers capable of finding their way through fog of confusion spewed forth by the media...

And when the rain stops and fundamental questions are asked, the media withdraws, leaving behind it only ruins. Damaged men and women, badly explained facts, facile interpretations lie scattered on the floor. We need to rebuild. Citizens lose themselves. Mentalities change rapidly, they say. So in this cloud of questionable information, laws are passed. As a matter of course.

Job done. Everyone’s learned the latest news “story” off by heart.

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    [date] => 2019-10-23 01:38:23
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