Sunday, February 3, 2013

The News: A Vicarious Spectacle


A vicarious spectacle, the news today exists as a empty shell of what it's initial design and function was and still technically is. The news was made to give the mass public of a democracy the information needed to make informed decisions, so that when the time came to exercise their civic duty (voting, contesting legislation, etc). Unfortunately, today the news acts like the propaganda arm of the government, with side stories of horror and numbing pleasure which act like drainer of an individuals criticism; this turns the individual from active citizen to passive consumer. What a great idea for those in power: keep the masses nullified with entertainment so to not rile them into an active criticism and reform of government policy. Perhaps the way big brother takes over is not by force but subversion and manipulation (at least on the domestic front). Its not so much 1984, but rather like Brave New World.

It fair to say that the mass public shares some of the blame for the news becoming what it is today. It goes without saying that humans do have vicarious and leisurely undertones by nature. But its the media, who are aware of this, actively reinforcing these aspects of ourselves. So although this problem is a two way street, the traffic on the side of the media is heaver as they are consciously manipulating and reinforcing this aspects of ourselves. The viewers traffic is much less as this is mostly an unconscious and tacit reaction to media. Plus the duty of the media is weighted more as the they have a direct hand in shaping popular opinion, unlike most individuals.

The current system has many harmful flaws which need to be corrected in order to endure a more perfect relationship between the government and the people. With out a doubt, the problem stems from the dependence of news agencies on corporate/commercial sponsors This is because of they don't want to make their products look bad. They also make sure not to disrupt the status quo as they are usually the biggest beneficiaries in society (in terms of profit). This causes a top down constriction on what shows up on the news. They filter the stories so as to keep information which would jeopardize the sponsors away from the public. Its plain to see how this benefits some while leaving the rest ignorant to what would otherwise receive unfavorable notice.

A way to better this system of news is to get rid of major corporate sponsors and instill more localized news shows which are publicly funded to reduce bias. This I believe will allow news agencies to both focus on relevant local stories and remove the number of ratings as the prime concern of the station. Following these changes, we can expect the general public to become more politically and socially aware of their environments, leading to beneficial things like less wars and more opportunist and/or entitlements for citizens

In our busy lives we may forget that watching the news is more of an civic duty then a time to sit, relax, and be entertained, as with the rest of TV. Remembering this function of the news can help the people of our society become better citizens by becoming more critical and engaging of government.