Monday, July 05, 2004

My latest B&C online book review:
Paul Starr's The Creation of the Media.

I wrote this review before the Reagan funeral, which illustrated my conclusion. As the Chicago Tribune wrote, the week of national mourning was "both a reminder of television's power to unite the nation in ceremony and a test of how strongly the nation still clings to its civic rituals."

I cut these grafs from the review for space reasons:

Although he doesn't say it, this question [of media ownership] is especially pertinent now, with the fervent efforts of Michael Powell's FCC to increase the market share of media companies under the dubious justification that, what with the Internet and all, it's harder for corporations (even Clear Channel, with its 1,200 radio stations) to make a buck. (A bipartisan outcry against Powell, from everyone from the ACLU to the NRA--and the bizarre assumption that this year's Super Bowl halftime show, produced and aired by Viacom-owned entities, was primarily the result of media consolidation--has slowed his efforts somewhat). ...

Think of it this way: by the transmission view, it is very important for both left-wing and right-wing groups to "get their message out" about say, gay marriage. But in the ritual or narrative view of journalism, the presence of such ideological diversity is unremarkable--the way that readers and viewers will tend to hear and react to such groups is to figure that they both sound alarmist extremist overreacting to something. ...

In short, though it is billed as a history of "public discussion, public knowledge, and public opinion," Starr's book is actually about control, not culture: who controlled what and when, but not how the media actually shaped society.

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