Excellent discussion late yesterday over at Jay Rosen's PressThink ("a weblog in an obscure corner of the publishing world." Heh.) on Journalism: Power without Responsibility, the article by Kenneth Minogue that is a liberal arts education on the attitudinal roots of modern journalism.
Jay's comments were clogged with 127 responses, so, well, our own lair is roomy, n'est ce pas?
So many intriguing comments, Robin's about entering the space of kairos at Eastern Orthodox services seems to tie in with Minogue's journalistic "culture of scepticism," one that exhibits a visible hatred of the readers' state of perhaps ignorant reverence, at least reverence for the conventional objects and subjects. If the journalistic goal is to strip away the veil on the back story of hitherto admired subjects, perhaps subjects that are not evil, just imperfect or complex; and if that goal perceptibly informs the theory and policy, the result is experienced as systematic psychological humiliation. And yes, the audience that reveres, admires, or loves these things will be furious unless the vile truth is so horrible it must be exposed.
Paul L.'s comment about the relentless activism of press stories, the woven threads that "something must be done (or sustained)," and "on the national level" is also important. The purpose of those exhortations is to deprive the reader of comfort, trust, and contentment, to stir him/her to action. This may seem a very good thing to the writer, who is already in motion and either cynically or sincerely agitated. The reader not in fervent agreement with the journalist's POV may not welcome agitation on someone else's agenda,* unless, again, the stakes are high enough to justify his being poked with an insistent rhetorical stick. Many journalists feel they produce what readers "need to know." More readers read looking for what interests them or contributes to their needs hierarchy (Maslow). "Being informed" must, in that scheme, somehow contribute to physiology, safety, belonging, esteem, or -- at the rare peak -- self-actualization. But that study is another post.
We here loved the Minogue article, thought it described very well the sense and objections of readers for whom liberation into zipless coupling, drugs, rock&roll, and anti-conservative activism is not demonstrably the rainbow's end. Those not temperamentally inclined to sympathize can nonetheless mine it for its information at many levels, without having actually to talk to us at boring and infuriating [as I think our obduracy must be to you : ) ] length.
*We're reminded of a Ziggy cartoon, in which multiple rabbits are shaking our hero awake at dawn, shrieking in distress, "Get up RIGHT NOW! There are mealy bugs on the lettuce!"
That's how some of the activist demands sound to the opposite side of the aisle.
Update: Of course, we now remember, the culture of scepticism finds its flower in Paul Ricoeur's hermeneutic of suspicion. The depth of the impact of the clash between the hermeneutic of suspicion, and the approach of trust and curiosity (which does not require gullibility) is explored in a particular context here. Method is not neutral. It "tends;" it "leans;" it predisposes.
Rhetorically, these differences reflect the shifting of the burden of proof, a device intentionally imposed in the legal context, bleeding over under cover to mechanically determine the outcomes of discourse.
Update: We notice Jay's association of Minogue with Ortega y Gasset's Revolt of the Masses, and suspect that the comparison is injudicious and perhaps unfair. We'd have to do some study, but don't want to swallow it whole.
Since Ortega said, As the masses, by definition, neither should nor can direct their own personal existence...this seems rather to tar Minogue with a serious anti-democratic brush, implying that the default attitude of suspicion is somehow more democratic than that of, perhaps, esteem for the processes of the polity. No, preference for suspicion is the revolutionary mind-set, not the stably democratic one, it is the perspective not of seamless change, but of overthrow and churn for its own sake.
Probably not a fair attribution, in our estimation, rather a lumping of "non-progressives" into a great disdainful mass.