Big money and big media have coupled to create a ‘Disney World’ of democracy in which TV shows, televised debates, even news coverage is being dumbed down, just as the volume is being turned up. The result is a public certainly more entertained, but less informed and personally involved than they should be, says Marty Kaplan, director of USC’s Norman Lear Center and an entertainment industry veteran. Bill Moyers talks with Kaplan about how taking news out of the journalism box and placing it in the entertainment box is hurting democracy and allowing special interest groups to manipulate the system.

“It’s all about combat. If every political issue is [represented by] combat between two polarized sides, then you get great television because people are throwing food at each other,” Kaplan tells Moyers. “And you have an audience that hasn’t a clue at the end of the story, which is why you’ll hear, ‘Well, we’ll have to leave it there.’”

“The problem is that there’s not that much information out there if you’re an ordinary citizen. You can ferret it out, but it ought not be like that in a democracy,” Kaplan says. “Education and journalism were supposed to, according to our founders, inform our public and make democracy work.”

Marty Kaplan on Big Money’s Effect on Big Media

April 27, 2012

Category: Financial Press, Video

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4 Responses to “Big Money’s Effect on Big Media”

  1. Union Agitator says:

    Jon Stewart manages to provide entertainment and clarity. It can be done.

  2. CitizenWhy says:

    The model for political reporting is sports reporting: the game, winner, loser, personality blurbs, color commentary. Melodrama, presided over, in many instances, by drama queens such as Rush Limbaugh.

  3. denim says:

    “Kaplan says. “Education and journalism were supposed to, according to our founders, inform our public and make democracy work.””
    Ah, yes. But psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, found a nefarious way to subvert that. He called it public relations…it was and is psychoanalytic mind manipulation to engineer public opinion.
    BBC’s documentary on it:

  4. Mobs vs. Crowds…

    The difference may be what distinguishes the success or failure of the American experiment… and the longterm survivability of the Enlightenment at all.

    Our rational minds come with a trap… they’re made to serve the lizard brain. And the technologists of messaging are well aware of it… and they use it as best they can to keep you from thinking too clearly about whatever it is they have to say. This is often with the best of intentions.

    Along with the altruism dilemma… this ‘monsters from the id’* issue arises naturally with technological progress and needs to be addressed. (remember that old movie “Forbidden Planet”… well it had a good point)

    There aren’t easy solutions… however the current focus on party and personality work against the kind of granularity of opinion characteristic of ‘crowds’ (but not mobs) so sorely needed. Moreover the lack of accountability has encouraged a cynicism amongst those engaged in intentional manipulation of emotion towards those they consciously attempt to divert and/or mislead.

    Encouraging granularity of opinion requires mechanisms enabling meaningful ad hoc associations on an issue-by-issue basis.

    Current lobbying mechanisms prevent that.

    The political microcontribution and its networking doesn’t by itself solve the problem of appeals to mob emotion… in fact it could make it worse unless habits of skeptical rationality can be culturally embedded. Good leadership is necessary. Little seems to be available.

    Perhaps not paradoxically, I believe a more enabled citizen is a pre-requisite for solution. And developed and presented in the right way a lobbying utility can encourage a citizenry with more the psychology of a juror deciding a case as opposed to a spectator at a gladitorial spectacle voting thumbs-up or thumbs-down.

    Overcoming the trend towards an irrational culture (and more lizard brain voting) will require a conscious attention to changing a natural trend towards banality which arises with the success rationality produces in a culture.

    The parties show no interest in this… certainly financial services and advertisers show no interest in this… and it may be that we have to struggle against a corporate sector and government that also won’t recognize just how fragile the Enlightenment really is.

    In truth, Enlightenment ideals have always been present in some individuals throughout history… and periods of rationality have accompanied the success of many past civilizations.

    But they’ve never lasted… and never actually dominated the population as a whole.

    I think they’d better start now.