Postmodern Media

When I was ending my undergrad degree and just starting grad school, I took classes that had one or two books that could be described as “PoMo.”

What’s “PoMo?” Well, it was short for postmodern, and it one of those things that one of my professor in grad school used to say “Gave bullshit a bad name.” Mostly because if you ever read any postmodern theory, you would find yourself thinking: “Am I missing something here? Or is this person saying something that really means…nothing?” Case in point: Jacques Derrida, a professor of theory in France at at UC Irvine until his death in 2004. I struggled through a couple of his books back in the day, and while I thought Derrida was saying something pretty deep, perhaps there was no “there” there in the end. Just for fun, here’s an example:

As a result, the question “what is proper-ty (propre), what is appropriation, expropriation, mastery, servitude, etc.” is no longer possible. Not only is propriation a sexual operation, but before it there was no sexuality. And because it is finally undecidable propriation, is more powerful than the question ti esti, more powerful than the veil of truth or the meaning of being.

What does Derrida have to do with the media? Well, part of PoMo theory argues that what we think of as The Truth, is really just a matter of perspective — or, more accurately, there are “truths” in the world.

Oddly enough, one of the most unlikely representatives of PoMo thought (though, it could be argued, that he was a superb representative) was Ronald Reagan when he said something like: “One man’s “Freedom Fighter” is another man’s terrorist.” See? If you’re illegally funding a war in central America, you call the contras “Freedom Fighters” to demonstrate that your cause is just — even as the reports of the carnage from your team are pretty horrific. However, if you’re on the receiving end of this “liberation” and are defending yourself from an outside group that’s using violence to overthrow your government, you call the contras terrorists. From each camp’s perspective, they are both right. So, see how The Truth becomes “truths?”

Well, since this brand of philosophy has woven itself into our intellectual and pop-cultural consciousness (Just think of the movie The Matrix or Wag the Dog), it’s been much easier for our political elite (mostly on the Right) to use the postmodern condition as a way to bamboozle, bewilder, and scare the bejesus out of us — and many in the media play along.

If you’re a die hard supporter of Bush’s policies, undoubtedly you’ll see what I’m saying as “liberal crap” because you’ve accepted the truths coming out of the administration as The Real World. No amount of evidence disproving this or that policy will sway you because you’ve been told (and you believe) that anything contrary to what Bush and right-wing media say is a lie.

Likewise, if you are a die hard critic of the Bush administration, anything they or their minions say has to be a lie — even if you’re presented with evidence to the contrary.

But what happens when our media landscape is so fractured (and, in many ways, more democratic) that the way we get our information only reflects our political biases? Frank Rich’s new book The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth From 9/11 to Katrina is one of those books that exposes the lies of the Bush administration, but he also has some harsh words for the so-called “mainstream media” who have blindly echoed what the administration has put forth ever since they assumed control of the government in 2001. For liberals, progressives, or folks just tired of the charade, Rich’s book will confirm what most have suspected all along: the Bush administration and the Right-wing media are very good at manipulating reality with show business/advertising techniques to sway public opinion in such a way that their policies are supported.

Now that we’re headed into the last lap of the mid-term election season, and support for Bush’s policies are at very low levels, get ready for the ugly volley of stereotypes aimed to appeal to the right wing base to start. However, this “red meat” for the conservative base has another benefit: it forces the ugly side of humanity into the press. Why? because the press covers the “controversial” subjects because it gets them an audience. It’s a variation of the old media adage: “If it bleeds, it leads.”

With that said, here are some code words the Right Wing Machine is going to sling with more intensity in the coming days:

1. San Francisco Liberal. Basically, it means gay, weak, elite, and, well, just fill in the blank.

2. Voter fraud. This has nothing to do with stealing an election by hacking in an electronic voting machine and flipping votes. This is about making sure “dirty illegal Mexicans” don’t cast even one ballot.

3. Voter ID Card. This is related to “voter fraud,” but this is a proposed policy that will make everyone get a voter ID card (with a photo on it) to vote in an election. If you don’t have one, you can’t vote.

4. Nancy Pelosi. Related to “San Francisco Liberal,” but it’s also about blatant sexism. See, if Democrats get a majority in the House, Pelosi becomes Speaker of the House. If that happens, then our country will be weakened by a woman who is not a “Big Daddy” protector like Bush and his Republican supporters are.

Sorry to be such a Debbie Downer, but for me, it’s really difficult to ignore what’s going on these days… But this doesn’t mean I’m less hopeful because of our current condition, it just means you gotta be aware of crap that’s rolling downhill so you can avoid it.


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