18 Apr 2003
In this book, Exoo addresses the failure of the modern mass media as a public institution, and as a viable avenue for the education of a people and for the advancement of our culture. Drawing heavily from the work of [Antonio Gramsci], he dispels the myths of a "liberal media" and, to a lesser extent, a "conservative media", and instead details the evolution of a mass media that is "centrist" at best. To explain this evolution, Exoo consistently offers the differing viewpoints of three schools of thought: cultural democracy, cultural hegemony, and neoconservatism. He makes no attempts to hide his preference, however, providing a very clear case for the evolution of the modern media as shaped by powerful hegemonic forces. Neoconservative theories on the "liberal media" are presented, as well, obligatorily, but only in passing, as the lunatic rantings of the hegemonic forces themselves.
Published in 1994, this book is still quite timely and relevant. Examples are provided throughout the book as recently as Desert Storm (which bears particular relevance given the current situation in Iraq). The focus, however, is on the evolution of the media itself. To this end, he provides, for each major form of media (print, television, hollywood, etc.), a history of its evolution from a public institution to a corporate-owned endeavour (the transition from "industry" to "business").
In each case, he presents cultural democracy's case for the (de)-evolution of the media's relevance and capacity for education into what is essentially a big commercial. The essence of this stance is self-evident in its name -- "cultural democracy" -- that all (or most) evolution in our culture happens because it's what the people want. In this case, the media we have now is simply the result of the media "giving the people what they want". In this democracy, our readership, subscriptions, and hours in front of the TV are our votes, and the many different media companies are the candidates.
However, he tempers this theory with the suggestion that this "democracy" does exist, but that it's also limited, and contained. The election is rigged, so to speak, by the indelible forces of corporate hegemony. In a world where the almighty dollar is the bottom line, corporate influence has won out over the public good at every opportunity througout the evolution of the media. Exoo claims that consumers of media do indeed pick and choose what they want, but only from what they are offered -- a selection that is becoming increasingly narrow. As evidence, he cites numerous studies that show that a majority of people feel "unfulfilled" or "uneducated" by the news they read -- or that most, despite spending hours in front of the TV, have a nagging feeling they shouldn't be spending so much time "sitting in front of the boob tube". This is evidence that the will of the consumer is no longer being served, and that hegemony has won out.
Exoo makes a very convincing case. If you're ever doubted both the claims of a "liberal media" or a "conservative media", but still been unable to put your finger on what exactly **is** wrong with the media, this book is for you. You'll never look at "the news" the same way again.