Friday, October 03, 2008

Patterns & Narrative

Right about now, I'm going to generalize a bit:

I'm noticing (you guessed it) a pattern --several actually-- that has developed in relation to debate/election coverage that reveals three separate, though simultaneously occurring, narratives about politics in the US. All are targeted at separate audiences but no audience seems truly unique to one alone. They are all three media-based and -centered: print, TV and Internet journalism.

Narrative one is what I'll call the "newspaper narrative." Largely bombastic and full of yellowish bells and whistles ("Pit Bull Palin Takes a Chomp Out of McCain," this being a shorter paraphrase of a headline I just now saw on the subway). Newspaper narratives (think Daily News) pander to a quick reader, a person with no time for the fine print, the flip-flopping, the heavy details. They want Page Six and they want it now! This is the fan club for readers who think the Obama/Osama rhyme is, or ever was, funny. This is somewhat class based, and certainly anyone can obtain a newspaper. As a result, the attempts at fake neo-con/republican populism abound. There is no attempt to hide the political persuasion of the writer. Some skew right, others left. Most do it poorly.

Narrative two is the TV narrative. Slightly more astute, it at least gives the uninformed viewer an idea of objective reporting without any objectivity whatsoever. "Fair and balanced" is only one example of this, the most widespread being the iconic loud-mouth screaming a monologue into the camera with very little acknowledgment of a rebuttal. Since the actual television is more expensive than the newspaper, it evens out by dumbing down the narrative. Snippets and soundbites are manufactured to easily proffer to the viewers, most in a semi-sedated state of relaxation that they're not caught in traffic. (When caught in traffic, these listeners take advantage of TV's sister narrative, radio, also monopolized.)

Narrative three is the Internet-generated narrative. Containing all the populist pomp of the newspaper and none of the editorial filters, the Internet is rife with views from people whom the reader largely has never heard of. Nevertheless, because of the velocity of communication and "fact-checking" that can occur while Internet surfing (click link, click link, click link), the narrative tends to be cleaner, more polished. Add to this the tendency of most bloggers to be upstarts with above average intelligence and know-how. Many have taught themselves programming and Internet publishing, many inter-link with sites of interest, and many dictate what becomes news (hatred aside for many, think Drudge) and what stories die.

What I find most interesting (though, admittedly, I find all of it interesting, hence this entry) is not that these narratives exist, nor that there are people who buy into each -- perhaps dismissing the others -- but that no one notices this happening. Why? And can the cause be attributed simply to market demands and manipulation?

Do we believe any of these narratives? Should we?


ryan manning said...

the next night we ate whale

Ryan said...

borrowing a page from the tao lin handbook