Monday, April 25, 2011

Decontextualized News and Limited Discourse -That's It!

For well over a year I've been trying to identify something persistently caught in my subconscious. I've known it is what seems to disturb me most about America now, but I have been unable until yesterday to bring it clearly and fully into consciousness and put it into words.

Thanks to Michael Parenti, who I just mentioned for the first time in the last entry, I now understand:

The "decontextualization of news" and the "limits of discourse" are the names for what has been troubling me.

Mister Parenti has been talking about these and related manipulations of the public for years but it's all new to me because I only listened to his many lectures on such topics this month.

I want to recommend these lectures especially now to anyone reading this, particularly the last ten minutes of the 2008 lecture, "Contrary Notions", where he describes the decontextualization of news and the limitation of discourse and debate very well.

I don't want to try to summarize the story here of how these now define the media and public discussion in the United States, because listening to the lectures really is necessary for a full understanding.

I am anxious though to express some new thoughts I'm having now that I know someone has been describing what was haunting me.

First, the kind of resonance with me of Michael Parenti's analyses is something I haven't felt for fifteen years. -The last time I had this sense of relief when I learned that what was bugging me was being articulated was when I read James Kunstler's "Geography of Nowhere" in 1996.

Then it was a realization that America's landscape was driving me crazy; now it's the realization that public dialogue and media have been doing so.

Secondly, it's now clear to me why I dislike the news programs on NPR and public TV as much as those on commercial networks -because the decontextualization of reporting and limitations of debate are just as pervasive.

The only difference is that these are intentional in the case of the corporate media but are induced by fear in the case of NPR and PBS. We just witnessed this fear again since the House of Representatives was once more taken over by right wing members who immediately began threatening public broadcasting.

Thirdly, I want to emphasize, as Parenti does, that decontextualization of news and limitation of discourse are expressions of power, not accidents or coincidences.

Finally, America reminds me of an abusive family. We always hear stories of how silence is imposed as part of the abuse. For example, if a child reports molestation to her brother, she will be beaten. In the family that is America, if a reporter begins to give the full context of his stories, he will be fired, if a debater on a broadcast begins to overstep the boundaries set by the outlet, he will be cut off.

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