Sunday, January 5, 2014

Great Books from Grad School | Arendt, Mass Media, and How Public Democratic Deliberation is Reduced to Mass-Produced Banality

Post-9/11 America Losing the Habits of Democratic Integrity

Here are a few excerpts that may help us think about the connection between the public and military policy. Plus, you can never go wrong with a little Hannah Arendt in your life!

Media as fake public discourse

  • “Awed by nightly video clips of futuristic weapons obliterating unseen enemies with bloodless, godlike precision, Americans have been seduced by the pleasure of what Michael Mann calls ‘spectator sport militarism.’ Hammered with wave on wave of economic disinformation, all filtered through the rhetoric of patriotic provincialism, our neighbors have been led to believe that the United States is an economic behemoth, bravely leading the world toward development and equality. Deluged with daily doses of misinformation regarding the postwar status of Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds of millions of U.S. citizens have been taught to celebrate our nation’s heroic humanitarianism despite a mountain of evidence pointing to looming economic, political, and military catastrophes in those occupied territories.” Hartnett and Stengrim 2006, 288
  • “Fed a daily diet of shouting television talk show hosts, hyperventilating radio shock jocks, corporate propagandists, and an ever-more compliant congress, citizens of the nation that brought free speech to the world have been taught to confuse passionate tirades for informed discussion and to bow dutifully before accepted wisdom, even those laced with so many obvious factual errors that the rest of the informed world scoffs at our gullibility.” Hartnett and Stengrim 2006, 288
  • “It would appear, then, that democratic integrity is giving way to mass-produced banality…” Hartnett and Stengrim 2006, 288

Citizens are just as responsible as the Big Lies of Political Leaders

"Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism … reminds us that such transformations in how publics think about life-and-death questions, how they talk about their value commitments, can never be simply a question of Big Lies snowing the masses.” Hartnett and Stengrim 2006, 288

“Rather, we must remember that these gradual shifts in rhetorical habits may ‘correspond to the secret desires and complicities of the masses in our time.’ Indeed, it may be the case that post-9/11 Americans are giving vent to emotions, long held in check but deeply felt, regarding their assumed rightful command of the world.” Hartnett and Stengrim 2006, 288, 289

SOURCE: Stephen John Hartnett and Laura Ann Stengrim. 2006. Globalization and Empire: The Invasion of Iraq, Free Markets, and the Twilight of Democracy.

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