Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Celebrity news replacing real issues

Yesterday, Susan Douglas, Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan and author of “The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How it Undermines Women” and “Listening In: Radio and the American Imagination” spoke at the University of Montana about the state of traditional media these days. In her lecture, entitled “From Bewitched to Buffy: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media,”
...Douglas said that the focus on celebrities displaces our attention from government, world affairs and other more important topics... ...Douglas added, mass media does perform many good societal functions, such as confronting prevailing cultural anxieties. And then, metaphorically or symbolically solving them in half-hour or hourlong TV shows. Also, the attention that events like the O.J. Simpson trial receive can highlight issues like domestic abuse and the vastly different levels of incarceration for white and black youths, Douglas said. However, the negative effects of celebrity culture on our society cannot be overlooked: The justification that it provides for the increasing gap between the rich and everyone else; the excessive interest in one's own appearance brought on by celebrities; and the fatalistic viewpoint that many people adopt in hoping that they too can one day become famous for doing little or no work, she said.
Is it me? Or does academia thrive on stating the obvious? Most of us in the blogosphere know that traditional media -- especially television, which Douglas seems to focus on -- works more to distract than inform. Of course there's more money in distraction. Blogs work hard to break this trend. Obviously not everyone likes poli-blogs. In fact most members of the traditional media seem scared or appalled by the blogosphere. But blogs can create buzz and point out the obvious storylines to newspapers and televion, who follow up a day or two later, like with the Cheney shooting. But how to break the obsession with distraction? That's the key to getting real debate. And, more specifically, how to do it here, in Montana?
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