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TorgoX (1933)


"Il est beau comme la retractilité des serres des oiseaux rapaces [...] et surtout, comme la rencontre fortuite sur une table de dissection d'une machine à coudre et d'un parapluie !" -- Lautréamont

Journal of TorgoX (1933)

Friday April 08, 2005
03:18 AM

Media spasm

[ #24063 ]
Dear Log,

«Another kind of distortion is represented by the recent Princess Di phenomenon. In an article in the Washington Post a few years ago, Todd Gitlin and I referred to this sort of thing as a media "spasm," in which the media and the public get tied up in a temporarily unstoppable positive feedback loop: First the media give us the story: Di dies; Saddam invades Kuwait; whatever. Then, if the story sells well, they give us more of it, along with accounts of how we, the public, feel about it. As these accounts multiply (tragic scenes of mourners at the palace, etc.), our feelings grow, leading us to want more of the story -- which the media of course give us, along with more news of "unprecedented global mass outpouring of grief." The spasm goes on -- crowding out all other news -- until we overdose on it and the whole thing just gets boring. (Of course, it is the media exec's who determine when we've had enough and it's time to move along to the next story du jour.)

[...] people have a choice of whether to obsess about OJ and cry over Di -- as opposed, for example, to getting worked up about the toxic factory in their neighborhood. [...]

I'm not blaming people: In a lonely and atomized culture there is a great temptation to join in whatever fleeting surge of communal feeling they can find, whether it's adoration of foreign royalty or the Green Bay Packers. But people do have a choice.»

--"Media Spasms: Writing for the Mainstream", an October 1997 interview with Barbara Ehrenreich