Keeping the Rabble in Line

Banging on about representation: The would be media lens

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Discursive formations

Bat020 on Lenin has an interesting [as ever] discussion
regarding way[s] in which speech and news of political class is positioned as normal and natural and absurdly "non political"
"Of course, right wing ideology has long held an aversion to the "political", preferring instead to present its actions as "sensible" or "pragmatic", mere expert technical administration."

This is classic discourse in action, where the values of elite systems of power are considered non partisan and neutral. The discourse of the high modaility form of "realism/news" are a tissue of conventions that typically mask their ideology. A close analysis of the discursive formation of [in this case] TV News remind us that there is nothing 'natural' about our values; they are social constructs in which we are enmeshed.

This is fairly standard semiotic/image/cultural analysis. The continuation of the BBC charter is reliant upon their news being seen to be objective [for objective, read giving voice to both sides Tory and Labour, as if there are only two sides, and even more, as if Tory and Labour are different in any meaningful way[s]]. Both 'common-sense' and positivist realism insist that reality is independent of the signs which refer to it, analysis emphasizes the role of sign systems in the construction of reality. Although things may exist independently of signs we know them only through the mediation of signs. We see only what our sign systems allow us to see.

With this in mind, are there no ideologically 'neutral' sign systems? Signs function to persuade as well as to refer. Sign systems help to naturalize and reinforce particular framings of 'the way things are', although the operation of ideology in signifying practices is typically masked. So therefore analysis always involves ideological analysis. If signs do not merely reflect reality but are involved in its construction then those who control the sign systems control the construction of reality. At this point, I feel I ought to make clear that this is not some conspiracy theory. This is the way discourse functions -- by convention as opposed to clearly defined boundaries.

So then, the discourse of TV news typically reinforce and naturalise elite positions as normal. The rest of us are polemicists, raging against the system and typically positioned as irrational, fuming, angry lefties "out of touch" with reality! This is particularly handy as if "we" are considered out of touch, irrational and angry then we can be marginalised and excluded from the discourse.

One of the political projects of the progressive thinker should be to mark out, explain and make clear the systemic ideological bias of the representational economy....


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