Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Interrupting Time

As I was reading “The Weird Global Media Event and the Tactical Intellectual” by McKenzie Wark, I was utterly fascinated by what he had to say regarding not only news itself, but the way it is presented to the viewer and controlled by the maker. After having studied both local and national news in MCM 100 last semester I felt as if I knew more about what news was to the audience than I did before the course, but after reading Wark my thoughts about news in the present day have been greatly expanded.

From the start, Wark brings up the question of reality, time and how the news brings up both. While usual movies show us just one scene at once, so do the usual news programs; however, both Time Code and major “breaking news” or “global media events” show us what is going on at that present moment. This bombardment of information can be scary/confusing/upsetting/etc., but we, as the audience, get much more out of what we are being shown by seeing events in real time (or as close as we can get to it.) Wark asks us how does media handle reality and not just the reality that it wants to show us. Since 9/11 “interrupted the time of news media” (p. 265) the newscasters couldn’t package it the “writerly” voice that we usually hear in regular news.

But that voice is only silent for a moment. Whenever a global media event happens, especially a tragic one, the event is constantly replayed to evoke emotions of sadness, fear or whatever else the media and those in control of media want us to think. Essentially, the media is controlling us. Do we know we’re being controlled? Of course not, why would we watch and digest the news if we knew of the control? One way the news penetrates our defenses against control is by creating diagrams and scientific models of where the planes hit/how the challenger exploded/or where X has bombed Y. Wark explains the news’s reasoning behind this diagramming by quoting Fredric Jameson who explains that diagrams are a way to show that the often emotional “individual experience is authentic, …[and] it cannot be true; and that… a scientific or cognitive model of the same content is true, …[and] it escapes individual experience” (p. 266.) By having both in a segment, we are made to think that both are true and have a personal and real experience, leading us to further connect with whatever we are being shown.

This doesn’t just have to be a singular global media event per say, I think that Tariq Ali put it perfectly when he was quoted by Wark as saying, “to accept that the appalling deaths of over 3,000 people in the USA are more morally abhorrent than the 20,000 lives destroyed by Putin when he razed Grosny or the daily casualties in Palestine and Iraq is obscene” (p. 267.) We can’t be everywhere at once, so we rely on the news to show us major events…but it is up to the producers to tell them what to show us. Unless we get our news from sources in every country, we are usually getting a biased opinion on the news. What we know may not be what is going on in reality just like, as in Wark’s example on p. 269, the firefighters in 1 WTC did not know that 2 WTC had already collapsed.

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