What a story. What a fucking story.
December 23, 2019 6:34 PM   Subscribe

"Vicious Cycles", an essay by Greg Jackson in Harper's Magazine, presents "theses on a philosophy of news".
What is the news? That which is new. [...] But what is important? What's in the news.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth (10 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
BREAKING NEWS

(the news is that for the first time this hour we have no new updates on the impeachment, but it's 'breaking')
posted by sammyo at 6:52 PM on December 23, 2019


Vicious Cycles, you say?

But on topic -- modern corporate news is broken and I have no idea if it's even possible to fix. Off to RTFA to see if there's any proposals.
posted by wires at 7:53 PM on December 23, 2019


At risk of starting off my account by breaking the rule and being too snarky, there historically has never been a greater pastime for those who have grown too old to cope with changes in society than to say that it used to be better.

The Jacksons's citation of Boorstin's 1962 book only serves to work against him, I think. Boorstin, nearly 60 years ago, railed against exactly the same things that Jackson does here -- so clearly things haven't gotten that much worse, have they? And I'm sure someone who was writing in the 1920s would have said the same thing.

At a point, maybe we need to consider that the two crises Jackson describes, of news as a cultural institution and news as an industry, are due to their conflicting objectives. News as a business will always focus on these pseudo-events -- the rate at which the image of boy in a bowler on a street corner shouting "Extra! Extra!" (a phrase coined apparently as early as the 1890s) to sell newspapers has been absorbed into the American cultural consciousness shows how far this lack of conflict dates.
posted by meikyoushisui at 8:32 PM on December 23, 2019 [8 favorites]


On the contrary, welcome to MeFi.
posted by sjswitzer at 8:43 PM on December 23, 2019 [9 favorites]


As philosophies of news go, I was fond of -I think it was the originator of 60 Minutes?- "News is what someone somewhere doesn't want you to know."
posted by bartleby at 8:54 PM on December 23, 2019 [4 favorites]


A lot of heady assertions in there, well worth the full read. And if it is a replay of the 1962 interpretation, I think what is different now is the intensity and the ubiquity. It's like graduating from Bud light on a Saturday evening to a McCormack's whiskey eye-opener 6 days a week.

Here's a bit from further in that grabbed me:
A needling friend may finally admit, “I’m just fucking with you.” The news is, on balance, just fucking with us, but it can never say so because it draws its stimulating power from the pretense that it isn’t entertainment, isn’t just “fun,” but is deeply consequential.
Good post. I'll likely reread TFA.
posted by j_curiouser at 9:54 PM on December 23, 2019 [1 favorite]


What she is selling, in other words, is not an experience of reality but of what her viewers wish reality were like—that is, therapy, not news.

This seems kind of backwards to me. The kinds of therapy I’m familiar with all have as their aim rehabilitating a person with a problem into the world as it is, not selling them a nice story about the world as it isn’t.
posted by eirias at 4:19 AM on December 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


Agree, eirias, therapy is a poor analogy. But there is something about psychological soothing - corroborating the audience's world view - that is going wrong, badly.
posted by j_curiouser at 4:44 AM on December 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


I think you're onto something, @meikyoushisui, re: this piece having some "things were better back when" qualities. And this piece from Eitan Hersh in the Boston Review has some of that same nostalgia in it... but. I can at least say for myself that these two pieces have been working together on me to point out the ways in which I read the national news constantly, partly in that mood of "dread, hushed panic, ambient foreboding" that Jackson describes and partly because following it has become a hobby, per Hersh. I'm excited about the idea that a way out of this mood and this helplessness is to divert some (not all) of that hobbyist energy into local politics, where I can contribute something meaningful.
posted by The Baffled King at 6:45 AM on December 24, 2019


Boorstin, nearly 60 years ago, railed against exactly the same things that Jackson does here -- so clearly things haven't gotten that much worse, have they?

Well they ain't gotten much better either!

I think what is different now is the intensity and the ubiquity.

I must speculate as I was not around in the prior time of 1962, but it feels like in that prior time such thoughts was an upper class thing, but now it's mass.

In that prior time:
  • Pro wrestling promotions pretended wrestling was real
  • Pro wrestling promotions pretended they were not pretending
  • The marks thought pro wrestling was real
Nowadays:
  • Pro wrestling promotions pretend wrestling is real
  • They no longer pretend they are not pretending
  • The marks do not think pro wrestling is real, but enjoy it anyway
The news, however, stubbornly insists on pretending they are not pretending.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 10:11 AM on December 24, 2019 [4 favorites]


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