The Politics of the Spectacle
This book uses critical democratic theory to outline the effects of consumer culture on citizenship. It highlights the importance that public space plays in creating the critical culture necessary for a healthy democracy, and outlines how contemporary ‘public’ spaces – shopping centres, the Internet, social networking sites and suburban communities – contribute to this culture. Terrorism, ecological destruction and the financial crisis are also outlined as symptoms of the politics of the spectacle. The book concludes with some basic principles and novel suggestions which could be employed to avoid the pitfalls inherent in our spectacular existence.
Chapter Three: Media, Technology and Democracy 42
• C H A P T E R T H R E E • Media, Technology and Democracy Burn down the disco Hang the blessed DJ Because the music that they constantly play It says nothing to me about my life —The Smiths, ‘Panic’ (1986) ccording to pop music folklore, the song lyric above was inspired when a BBC Radio DJ followed up a news report announcing the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl with the sexy and cheerful single ‘I’m Your Man’ by Wham!. As such, it serves as an introduction to the notion that the mass media does not necessarily improve the quality of public communication. While Habermas and Arendt suggest that democracy’s success depends upon the involvement of heroic individuals and conscientious processes in political issues, there’s little evidence that the contemporary public sphere generates either of these elements. The aim of this chapter is to identify the role mass media plays in the discussions of modern democracies. It is important to understand the role that media technology has played in transforming what we conceive to be the public and how that transformation has changed our relationship with the public. The ideal notion of the function of the media within representative democracy was evident in Thomas Carlyle’s description of the French media at the time of the revolution as the “Fourth Estate” of government. The first estate being the clergy, the second the nobility and the third being the representatives of the people in the Estates General, it fell to the...
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