Sunday, January 09, 2005

The News as Advertising

The purpose of TV is entertainment? education? No: the purpose of TV is the ads. How about "the purpose of TV is the news"? No. Or, if so, it doesn’t change a thing: because the purpose of news is the ads. Indeed, the news itself is all ad. The news itself is a rainbow of ads. First, superficially, most obviously, the news is sponsored. No sponsor, no TV news. So that’s ads: the sponsored part.
Ah, but the show part of the news is sponsored: by the network! The news is an ad for the network! Count how many times in any fifteen minutes network personnel identify the network by name: including when they identify each other by name.
The network is sponsored by the state. It’s the state that divies the electromagnetic spectrum and gives the divisions away. The international news is an ad for the state. Actually, all of the news is an ad for the state: while the state is an ad for the sponsors: including those friends the state gave those divisions of the spectrum to. If the network members hadn’t been friends of the state the state wouldn’t have given them the division. And if they hadn’t been friends of the state somehow anyway they become friends of the state.
(McLuhan distinguished ads that stimulate sales from ads that steep the consumer in confidence that purchases of the brand already made were wise: Cadillac owners are assured that they spent their money on the right product. Network news is an ad of both kinds simultaneously: watch NBC, be proud that it's NBC that you jack into your brain.)
Meantime, for brief snatches, the TV shows, all chopped up, offer "real" entertainment: movies made for the commercial movie theaters, for example. But of course more and more those movies too sell ad space. But even before they did, the movies were ads: ads for basic cultural biases, ads for fashions, ads for commercial consumption even where no brand is specified. Ads for theological positions, ads for political tendencies.

Get out of here! What about the cartoons?
The cartoons are ads for basic mythic stances: democracy: and if not democracy, then for Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species bias: men are better than monkeys, monkeys are better than dragons ... and nothing is as bad as snakes: unless it’s spiders.

Uh, so isn’t there such a thing as news really?
Sure there is. When your neighbor yells that your house is on fire, that’s news. When your neighbor yells that there’s one lantern shining from the belfry, that’s also news: they’re coming by land.

I've duplicated this piece in the News folder of's Society section. (I'm also transferring it from the macroinformation blog to my Iona Arc blog.


At 4:47 AM, furious said...

On a slightly different note, Ezra Pound said, "Literature is news that STAYS news." I don't think that spares it from your category of ads.

I am enjoying the blog.

At 4:09 PM, pk said...

Speaking of TV as a series of ads for the state, WHEW! Is everyone watching this 39th Super Bowl?!
Patriotism had been escalating its infection of sporting events in recent years anyway: baseball games routinely start with the national anthem, recent World Series games have intruded additional anthems at the seventh inning stretch.
Information can never be assumed to mean what it seems to mean though; maybe this is all a sign that we're embarrassed as never before.

At 2:59 PM, pk said...

Reading David Liss's A Spectacle of Corruption I am impressed by how clearly Liss presents newspapers of eighteenth-century London as strictly political organs, managing more than reporting the "news," inventing whatever suits the agenda. When I was a kid delivering the Star Tribune in Long Island's Rockville Centre, I was bewildered by the alacrity with which adults identified the Star with the Republicans, Newsday with the Democrats. Now I see it as clearly true.
Life was Protestant, Look sympathized with Catholics. Networks are a bit more sly.
The society would be healthier is all organs wore their political (or theological) button above (and bigger than) their mast logo. Inaccurate buttons should trigger pillage.

This post has been copied, duplicated, linked, relinked ... it went up twice here! I'll dedup.

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