Postmodernism versus Journalism

From what I’ve read here at Café Whispers I would say quite comfortably that we are postmodernists.  From what I know of the media puppets in this country, I’d say they are not.

I will argue my case.

Postmodernism is a term, or set of ideas that emerged as an area of intellectual study in the wake of the social and economic transformations of the 1960s.  Despite being one of the most important paradigmatic changes of the last half century it has been difficult to define because it is a concept that appears in a wide variety of disciplines or areas of study, including art, architecture, music, film, literature, sociology, communications, fashion and technology.  If we looked at postmodern as a word, we could readily place it among a network of ‘postist’ concepts and modes of thinking, such as ‘post-industrial society’, ‘post-structuralism’, ‘post-colonialism’ and ‘post-rationalism’.  All of these – and this is relevant – appear to represent the attempt to articulate the sense of a new age dawning.

Postmodernism, to some, is a crisis of meaning and confidence in Western culture.  For the most part of the last two thousand years the West has identified itself as a global authorising culture, but challenges have now been made to this authority by other cultures.  At the same time, a number of groups – such as women or minority groups – have made claims from within Western culture that have questioned standard assumptions about Western theories of knowledge.

Does that sound like us?

There are lots of questions to be asked about postmodernism and one of the most important is about the politics involved – or, more simply, is this movement toward fragmentation, performance and instability something good or something bad?  There are various answers to that; in our contemporary society, however, the desire to return to the pre-postmodern era (modern/humanist/Enlightenment thinking) tends to get associated with conservative political, religious and philosophical groups.  In fact, one of the consequences of postmodernism seems to be the rise of religious fundamentalism, as a form of resistance to the questioning of the grand narratives of religious truth.

On another level, postmodernism seems to offer some alternatives to joining the global culture of consumption, where commodities and forms of knowledge are offered by forces far beyond any individual’s control.  These alternatives focus on thinking of any and all action (or social struggle) as necessarily local, limited, and partial – but nonetheless effective.  By discarding grand narratives (such as the liberation of the entire working class) and focusing on specific local goals, postmodernism offers a way to theorise local situations as fluid and unpredictable, though influenced by global trends.

The last decade has been a decade of tremendous change.  Ancient certainties, trusted ideologies and tested methods all came under immense pressure once postmodern ideas and concepts gained wider currency and postmodernism come to signify a wide range of positions.  Three major themes can be identified:

  1. A rejection of both the all-encompassing and frequently teleological theories of human history and social change associated with Enlightenment ideas about reason and progress.
  2. A linking of claims about social life, human nature and criteria of truth and validity with strategies of power.
  3. A replacement of the emphasis on the individual subject and the contents of the consciousness of that subject by an emphasis as language as inter-subjective.

It is worth staying with this for a while.  In providing a critique of positivism and macro-theory postmodernism has established an intellectual position that has challenged a variety of intellectual traditions.  By arguing for subjectivism and micro-sociological analysis, postmodern thinkers have instituted a theoretical and practical shift away from the once dominant traditions.

This conflict in theory manifests itself in a sharp division between the digressive constructions of postmodern thought.  Postmodern discourse, in emphasising a new perspective and difference, establishes an orientation towards history and knowledge that denies the existence of material truth.

Central to Marxist theory is the notion of ideological control by the dominant class, implementing a framework that supports the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships.  The postmodern construction of power deviates from the Marxist viewpoint through a definition of ‘truth’ as an exertion of power, attempting to restrict or subvert the plurality of discourses existing in society, identifying truth in the same light as the Marxist conceptualisation of ideology.  Pivotal to the Marxist theory is the notion of ideological control (hegemony) by the dominant class.  Acting as an instrument of ideological control, hegemony allows for the ruling class to guide the praxis of the rank and file.  In this way hegemony provides a vehicle for the constant assimilation of change and necessity in culture, appropriating the discourse of social movement while promoting the agenda of the dominant group.  Postmodernism challenges the epistemological foundations of such thought.

Again, that sounds like us.

The media, however, attempts to permeate the entirety of our consciousness.  Acting as an instrument of ideological control, the media allows for the ruling class to guide the praxis of the masses without directly intervening in personal affairs.  Journalists reject the roles of power established by the postmodernists, acting as a social construct that promotes the existence of the groups employing them.

Any reader here will be aware that the media has recently been under serious and sustained attack.  The aim of this attack has been to create a great deal of agitation about what the media is on about and to render its message all but moribund.  This attack has generally been directed at two presumed failings:

  1. Failure to Culturally Relativise all Forms of Knowledge.  The presumed failure to recognise the cultural relativity of all knowledge, including scientific knowledge; ie, scientific knowledge is not objective and is just another of the endless ways humans have of portraying their interpretation of events.
  2. Failure to Take a Moral Stand Against Oppression.  The presumed failure to take a firm moral stance against oppression of all sorts; oppression against Aborigines, against visible minorities, against Third and Fourth World peoples, against refugees, etc.

Postmodernists could argue that the media should be directed at exposing and unmasking the various cultural factors maintaining hegemony (ie, dominance, dominion, heavy authority) of one human group over another human group.  They further advocate that the media, as an instrument, maintains hegemony of one human group over another group.  Here at Café Whispers, the media has been variously characterised as an essentially non-objective and ethnocentric enterprise: a disguised ideology supporting the domination of oppressed groups in society.

In this sense postmodernists may see their position as politically correct, that is, iconoclastic and subversive of ascendant hegemonic categories.  But postmodernists tend to apply the logic of cultural construction more relentlessly in specifying and de-constructing points of view, regardless of authorship.

Further, we postmodernists are concerned with questions of the organisation of knowledge.  In a postmodern society, however, knowledge becomes functional – you learn things, not to know them, but to use that knowledge.

What, in closing, are the major differences between we postmodernists and the media?  Consider the following and the answer becomes clear:

  1. Reason is the ultimate judge of what is true, and therefore of what is right and what is good.
  2. Language, or the mode of expression used in producing and disseminating knowledge, must be rational also.  To be rational, language must be transparent; it must function only to represent the real/perceivable world, which the rational mind observes.
postmodernism

postmodernism (Photo credit: versionz)

80 comments on “Postmodernism versus Journalism

  1. Very interesting and complex too. A difficulty is in the number of definitions of postmodernism, however one is that there is no absolute truth..all being relative.

    This works well when the aim is the ultimate good, the progress of society but what happens when these lines become blurred..the truth being relative.

    I believe that we are seeing this now where today’s society struggles to discern the difference between factual information and opinion..the truth being relative.

    Examples could be how “the news” presents no clear guildlines as to truth or opinion, where society sits boggle eyed at “reality” television where very little reality is involved.

  2. Mig. You must be on drugs. When I start rabbiting on like this my friends take me home. I am fine the next day.

  3. Good stuff Migs,
    I’ve read alot of post-modern literature:

    “We are all born mad. Some remain so.”
    - Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

    Remind you of any media empire mogul and his minions?

    N’

  4. Adam Barnhart wrote in similiar vein some years ago. Good to see his ‘notions’ are being revisited.

  5. Sometimes when I’m watching the news or listening to politicians I feel like I don’t exist…a stranger in a strange land…

    “working families”…”families with children”…the focus…has nothing to do with me…

    “The family is the cradle of the world’s misinformation. There must be something in family life that generates factual error. Over-closeness, the noise and heat of being. Perhaps even something deeper like the need to survive. Murray says we are fragile creatures surrounded by a world of hostile facts. Facts threaten our happiness and security. The deeper we delve into things, the looser our structure may seem to become. The family process works towards sealing off the world. Small errors grow heads, fictions proliferate. I tell Murray that ignorance and confusion can’t possibly be the driving forces behind family solidarity. What an idea, what a subversion. He asks me why the strongest family units exist in the least developed societies. Not to know is a weapon of survival, he says. Magic and superstition become entrenched as the powerful orthodoxy of the clan. The family is strongest where objective reality is most likely to be misinterpreted. What a heartless theory, I say. But Murray insists it’s true.”
    ― Don DeLillo, White Noise

  6. Hmmm…

    From Catch 22:

    “‘What is a country? A country is a piece of land surrounded on all sides by boundaries, usually unnatural. Englishmen are dying for England, Americans are dying for America, Germans are dying for Germany, Russians are dying for Russia. There are now fifty or sixty countries fighting in this war. Surely so many counties can’t all be worth dying for.’”

    ——

    “This time Milo had gone to far. Bombing his own men and planes was more than even the most phlegmatic observer could stomach, and it looked like the end for him…Milo was all washed up until he opened his books to the public and disclosed the tremendous profit he had made.”

    Indeed.
    N’

  7. Failure to Take a Moral Stand Against Oppression.

    Could that be because, sometimes, the media themselves ARE the oppressors?

    (I would click on the ‘youtube’ to watch it in another tab, it is quite long)

  8. Migs and In a postmodern society, however, knowledge becomes functional – you learn things, not to know them, but to use that knowledge.

    The contra being that all knowledge is wasted knowledge unless there is practical application. Far different from an Age of Enlightenment or indeed the 1960′s and Flower Power where it was the process of learning which was of prime importance.

    It seems that in a postmodern society, first and foremost is it’s “usefulness” and knowledge then follows to fit in with this use. The demise of the importance of the Arts can be seen as a result.

  9. Tom R,
    Useful vid. Exposes bad stuff. Sabotage…uncompetitive behaviour.

    The rest of us volunteer…or try to treat our competitors with due respect…but some think they can use just about any method to gain…expand…profit.

    It’s no wonder that some media moguls have expanded like a Roman empire propaganda machine.

    So much for a fair and even playing field.

    Canoodle up to cops, intelligence experts, private eyes…and politicians…and you obviously have created a rigged game.

    Free market my arse.

    The system is a joke when companies like News Corporation can run rampant…

    acting like there is one law for them…another for the rest of us.

    N’

  10. Miglo,

    Thank you for writing this challenging piece. It is quite refeshing to read something which challenges us to thought.

    You wrote, “Failure to Take a Moral Stand Against Oppression.”

    I see a certain fatalism in today’s society where those who try to do good are continously denigrated, those who try to effect positive changes are labelled with slick one liners. Many despair when it seems that one has the entire media against one, hence all visual and auditory communication in unison.

    We have become a society where efforts to assist others is seen as a waste of time and especially of money. Consider the resentment against people such as refugees and indigenous folk, that they might get more than that person of prime importance- “me”.

    We have become a society where academics are belittled, where artists are cast as worthless timewasters, where nothing is of value unless it has a dollar value.

  11. … where nothing is of value unless it has a dollar value.

    Absolutely, Nim …

    Bearing in mind that money is power in our world and always has been … power to control others … that brings us to a favourite topic of mine … The Robber Barons ….

  12. Miglo, as much as I like a topic like this I can sink my teeth into, I have to admit that Geoff’s comment amused me. He’s probably right, you know. :)

  13. TB Queensland,

    I have read your pieces where you state The Robber Barons. I couldn’t agree with you more. That’s a term we all should be using more often. Abbott deals with slick one liners, surely we moderates can use ‘em too to achieve a bit more balance against the right dominated media.

  14. Roswell, Migs was last sighted waiting for someone to pick him up off the floor following el gordo’s agreeing with him…perhaps he wrote this topic while he was down there. ;)

  15. TB:
    Bearing in mind that money is power in our world and always has been … power to control others … that brings us to a favourite topic of mine … The Robber Barons ….

    and resources…

    And media

    N’

  16. Nimue wrote:

    I see a certain fatalism in today’s society where those who try to do good are continously denigrated, those who try to effect positive changes are labelled with slick one liners.

    Many despair when it seems that one has the entire media against one, hence all visual and auditory communication in unison.

    —–

    Indeed Nimue. Until the blogs came along the attacks and relentless propaganda campaigns by the Murdoch empire and its clones and copycats felt like this:

  17. The media’s primary role is to illuminate the now, it is not their responsibility to do any more.

  18. El gordo, the media’s role is to report the facts which they have ceased to do by blurring the lines between factual information and opinion.

  19. On the rare occasions I watch any commercial MSM in particular News Ltd I feel like a post dated cheque

    You a know a Czechoslovakian with a pole up his ar*se

  20. “I see a certain fatalism in today’s society where those who try to do good are continously denigrated”

    Could not agree more. There seems to be a lot of learned helplessness around.

    There seems to be many who believe that one cannot change much, therefore do not take interest, or worse do not want to hear.

    They isolate themselves in their close families and let the rest of the world go by.

    No one cannot isolate themselves completely from the world and a few words get through, that they remember when they go to vote.

    Perceptions like “she lied” become a reality to these people. They are not interested enough to question what they have become to learn.

    They just do not want to hear anything that puts at risk, their ever decreasing circle.

    Is this what postmoderism is about.

  21. lunalava,
    LOL

    CU,
    Lying, profiteering, brain washing, environment raping, politician buying, small business sabotaging, oft consumer conning, worker exploiting, toxic industry hearting, anti-competitive, predator-like, leaving people behind as collateral damage, ruling our planet corporate aristocratic…robber barons.

    N’

  22. Catching up,

    “They just do not want to hear anything that puts at risk, their ever decreasing circle.

    Is this what postmoderism is about.”

    I believe that this is what is happening with today’s society, isolation, the circle is ever decreasing. It does seem at odds doesn’t it, there are very few in Australia who go hungry, who do not have a roof over their heads and yet everyone seems so very afraid that “all” will be taken away from them.

    It is all based on life comforts, the must-haves which society dictates which we must have. Not the things which make us happy but those things which elevate one’s status.

  23. nasking, just make sure you do not leave the “lying” out.

    it is now the biggest crime going. It does not matter if one does not lie. If you are unable to deliver 100% and fail through no fault of your own, it is still a lie.

    Was on the local bus early this morning. Could just hear the local radio station the driver had on.

    Guess the words I picked up. Pink bats and BER, mainly school halls.

    Will someone remind these idiots, that they are talking about something that alleging happen three years ago in another government.

    The fact that both were successful overall, is of little importance of those whingeing.

    When are they going to find something current to criticise the government for.

    I

  24. ““They just do not want to hear anything that puts at risk, their ever decreasing circle.”

    When I was younger one, belong to a club or two. Even if it was just a tennis or youth club.

    Many took time out to join their local political party or a service club.

    Most made at least a odd appearance at the school’s mothers club and Parents and Citizen meetings.

    Today, no one seem to be involved in any of these activities.

    Most followed the doings of their local council and other political happenings.

    We still have the parents who turn up to the Saturday morning’s sport for their children. Very little interaction goes on between these parents.
    Many are lucky if they recognise their neighbours at the local shopping centre, that is if they still have one.

    It is becoming a very impersonal world.

  25. Guess the words I picked up. Pink bats and BER, mainly school halls.

    Will someone remind these idiots, that they are talking about something that alleging happen three years ago in another government.

    The fact that both were successful overall, is of little importance of those whingeing.
    —————–

    CU,
    Goebbels, Stalin didn’t care about the truth either…as long as they could persuade the people…and screw democracy or dissidents over…control.

    They had their propaganda machines repeat repeat repeat LIES.

    And hyperbole.

    N’

  26. My understanding of postmodernism comes from my art background, having combined the majors of Art and Psychology when I studied to become a teacher.

    And you know what..I do not give a flying fck..it’s all just theorising, one person’s idea is no better than the next persons. And it’s goodnight from me.

  27. Actually, Min, I’m of the impression that it was in the art world where the postmodernist movement grew from. It is now applied to many disciplines.

  28. I find the theory a little hard to comprehend.

    Why, I do not know. I also believe that truth is relative and probably pure truth does not exist.

    It is not unknown for truth to change.

    For decades the truth was that ones ulcer was caused by stress and poor diet habits. No one challenge this truth. Along came a couple of scientist, who decided to have another look. What do we find out, stress and pure diet habits had nothing to do with stomach ulcers. It was caused by, I think a germ.

    Truth in my opinion is relative. We can have different truths in different circumstances.

    Truth can be hard to pin down. It is not surprising that what we believe to be truth, can change, when the facts or data we use also changes.

    In this life it is rare to have all the facts. It is rarer to have them all at the one time.

    Did the PM not tell the truth. Some believe so, and nothing will change their minds.

    I believe not, because I believe when she said that sentence she meant it. I believe her, because at the time there were two arguments raging. One was for a straight out carbon or a market based price on carbon emissions, which Labor and the PM supported. This is what the Clean Energy Scheme is, with a fix price for three years. Even Mr. Rudd’s started of with a short fix price period.

    The PM could not have foreseen a minority government, which made her preferred option impossible, It also made it possible to get a model; through.

    I am not making excuse for the PM. She simply did not lie.

    Now they say that Premier Bligh said nothing about asset sales before the election. There fore on this point she did not lie. She might have lied by omission, but that is pulling a long bow.

    I believe she said that she would keep the petrol subsidy, I believe. The reasoning she gave for changing her mind was the GFC. Is changing one’s mind because of changed circumstance, lying, or even breaking her word.

    We elect people to govern and when they dare do that, we punished them.

    Maybe we should get past saying they lied, and look at whether what they did, is in the best instance of the nation. That is all that matters.

    Did they Victorian Premier lie when he started dismantling green projects. I believe he did.

    I do not see that any circumstances have changed.

  29. I think everyone is starting to tug a bit too deeply tonight. Time to call it a night. Plenty more tomorrow whisperers…….
    Can we start a blog in the morning on something more relevant to the broader base of Australian society.
    Hawthorn plays Collingwood on Friday night…….. This raises many deep seated questions of the compassion of our society.
    Should Collingwood supporters be allowed to reproduce? Should their random offspring from random couplings be drowned at birth………..
    Do we give a flying fck what Collingwood supporters do or think…..

  30. Football is real, whereas Postmodernism is just a theory and only relevant to modern societies.

    It escapes meaning among the broad mass of humanity.

  31. “Can we start a blog in the morning on something more relevant to the broader base of Australian society.
    Hawthorn plays Collingwood on Friday night…….. This raises many deep seated questions of the compassion of our society.”

    Geoff if you do not like what you find here, why come. If what we do is not up to standard,

    I suggest if you asked Migs, he will allow you to put up a post, to give us an example of what to do.

    It must be lonely to be so superior to those around you.

    I believe this post is relevant. It is good to pause and take a look at why we have the views and beliefs we do.

    I am waiting for your post, that will put us on the tight track.,

  32. Migs, So I guess postmodernism has nothing to do with posties getting mopeds ….. Mod postie-ism, maybe you could write about postmodernism and the Port Adelaide FC, a much shorter article I’d guesstimate…. I guess we’ed all like to see ‘truth’ leading the way as the world follows, but alas, to many Clive’s, red-neck hegemony….. post-feudalism, mm!!!

  33. el gordo, your truth that man made climate change does not exist, if the scientist come up with new facts, may become truth.

    That is a mouthful. I know.

    I do think that we do need to look at what lying consists of, if we are throwing out governments on one or two alleged lies, regardless of what good has been done.

    It is as if a lie has become a major crime that is up there with murder rape, treason and brutality. A crime so bad, that there is no forgiveness or understanding.

    In my opinion, those saying “she” lied, are lying themselves.

  34. Lie’s are the oil that lubricate the cogs of civilisation from the grinding sands of truth…… or so I’v heard…( eg: Does my bum look big in this; [your answer here] ….mmm! )

  35. Does my bum look big in this;

    No bigger than it does in anything else :mrgreen:

    Disclaimer: I’ve been married for almost 30 years and can still run very much quicker than Mrs Bacchus can throw a pot :lol:

  36. Good point Migs – human nature I guess – the ‘fight or flight’ response; “thought” doesn’t enter the equation…

  37. Miglo, is the art that was modern when I was twenty still modern today.

    When does art stop being modern.

  38. I guess I’d run too, Bacchus. Not far enough I’d imagine. I might as well just stand there and say shoot me.

    Who knows, it might attract some sympathy.

  39. Postmodern Art is linked to the CPI…. which of course is not true…… all art is linked to the ASX….. damn you Warhol….

  40. The thing about post modernism is that it’s the neverending story, because every single thing from now until for ever is always going to be post-modern..that is, until someone thinks up a new word to mean “modern”.

  41. Ah, but you miss the point….. art as an adjective….. its not about the artwork…. its about how you sell it…. spiel v’s postmodernism v’s asx…. Andy knew how to sell fish to a fish….. and if that dosnt make sense then you’ve got it !!!!!!!!!!!!

  42. Migs, I feared that. I cannot remember what art was like then. I think I might have been struck in the Impressionist. I know it was not the brightest of times back then, a little narrow minded and constricted.

    It is a shame that Mr. Howard tried so hard to take us back there. It is a shame that a much younger man is struck there. Mr. Abbott is who I am talking about, Ancient art would be more his period,

  43. LOVO and art as an adjective…not unless you’re a worker in the arts. Then it’s a noun, it’s the object which you create.

    I am an artist, in the sense that I make things which requre imagination, made from things which are part of the natural world – these things include glass, paint, silver solder.

    I take these things and with my imagination I create a new entity, it could be anything from my imagination. Some of these things are practical, lamps and windows, some are less practical and are but decoration.

    Can you guess who I am?

  44. You are MIN….. ah, the eternal question…. what is a/and/or a Min….. well two of you provide light… if thats at all helpful…. or I can remember being a right cad and saying things like ” show us your”, what was ur name again… post-cad-ism….. the buzz is that art is in the eye of the bee-holder… but what Aparists have got to do with this is beyond me…….post humourism and/or…..not!!!!

  45. LOVO and “You are MIN….. ah, the eternal question…. what is a/and/or a Min…”

    Actually I’m Carol..does that solve your problem?

  46. Yes…. thanks for that… um, Carol….hope I havnt over reached….. well I’m sure I havnt after all Im not a Collingwood fan ….

  47. Has anybody seen the 70s movie called Bedroom Mazurka?

    For those that haven’t, it’s a comedy about a teacher who was accused by another teacher of raping her. She went on and on and on about it. So he thought “I’ve been charged with a crime I never committed, so I might as well commit it”.

    It had a good message.

  48. Apologies if I’m away for a while, a small thing happened called bills, $600 electricity etc etc sadly zilch left to pay the phone bill.

  49. oops, if i have over-stepped.. um, Mick….. Min, your lucky.. getting zilch to pay your Ph. bill… I have to pay my own…. can you get me zilches no. maybe he’ll pay min(e) …….um….and yet……

  50. The public attacks on me tonight have been very depressing. I’m taking three months off. You sometimes wonder if the effort is worth it.

    I’ll be putting in for my long service leave and I’ll probably go back to SA to spend a few months on my sister’s farm.

  51. Miglo what in the hell is going on. I thought everyone was starting a new slate, not that I really believed that.

  52. Migs, I am absolutely positive that your sister will love to see you..you and she have that same wonderful quirky sense of humour. But on the other hand I am going to miss you, and that means a lot.

  53. on March 29, 2012 at 1:48 amMiglo
    The public attacks on me tonight have been very depressing. I’m taking three months off. You sometimes wonder if the effort is worth it.
    I’ll be putting in for my long service leave and I’ll probably go back to SA to spend a few months on my sister’s farm.
    ———

    Am I missing something?

    Who is attacking you Migs?

    I thought the blog was coming along nicely.

    N’

  54. Miglo and “From what I’ve read here at Café Whispers I would say quite comfortably that we are postmodernists.  From what I know of the media puppets in this country, I’d say they are not.

    I will argue my case.”

    I believe that this statement requires thought. Is this why we often feel that the media does not reflect society. That we are being told what to think, yet it doesn’t sit comfortably. Something is clearly wrong.

  55. …so getting down to the key ingredients of society …. Hawthorn does look like it is the Finals Contender. ..it is of course early in the season but tonight’s performance has shown the ferals of our society, Collingwood, as critically lacking this season.
    Does this relate to the postmodernism debate? Football is reality.
    It has been a long time between drinks.
    Go Hawks.

  56. Excellent point Geoff. Having been born the wrong side of Glenferrie road, I follow the ‘pies. Actually I was born not a drop punt away from the Glenferrie oval.

  57. Was a good game. Collingwood wasn’t disgraced. I jagged tickets to the Sons game today . wooo hooo.

  58. Pingback: Conflict theory? The Anti-Principle of Instantiation « invincibleignorance

  59. Pingback: Spirituality and Knowledge: Culture Shifting Emphasis from Content to Skill Development | Social Behavioral Patterns–How to Understand Culture and Behaviors

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