Monday 11 July 2011

The Press

"Now, whereas the Classical, and supremely the Forum Of Rome, drew the mass of the people together as a visible body in order to make that use of its rights which was desired of it, the "contemporary" English-American politics have created through the press a force-field of world-wide intellectual and financial tensions in which every individual unconsciously takes up the place allotted to him, so that he must think, will and act as a ruling personality somewhere or other in the distance thinks fit. This is dynamics against statics, Faustian against Appollonian world-feeling, the passion of the third dimension against the pure sensible present. Man does not speak to man; the press and its associate, the electrical news service, keep the waking consciousness of whole peoples and continents under a deafening drum-fire of theses, catchwords, standpoints, scenes, feelings, day by day and year by year, so that every Ego becomes a mere function of a monstrous intellectual Something. Money does not pass, politically, from one hand to the other. It does not turn itself into cards and wine. It is turned into force, and its quantity determines the intensity of its working influence.

Gunpowder and printing belong together - both discovered at the culmination of the Gothic, both arising out of Germanic technical thought - as the two grand means of Faustian distance tactics. The Reformation in the beginning of the Late period witnessed the first flysheets and the first field-guns, the French Revolution in the beginning of the Civilisation witnessed the first tempest of pamphlets in the autumn of 1788 and the first mass-fire of artillery at Valmy. But with this the printed word, produced in vast quantity and distributed over enormous areas, became an uncanny weapon in the hands of him who knew how to use it. In France it was still in 1788 a matter of expressing private convictions, but England was already past that, and deliberately seeking to produce impressions in the reader. The war of articles, flysheets, spurious memoirs, that was waged form London on French soil against Napolean, is the first great example.

Today we live so cowed under the bombardment of this intellectual artillery that hardly anyone can attain to the inward detachment that is required for a clear view of the monstrous drama. The will-to-power operating under a pure democratic disguise has accomplished its task so well that the object’s sense of freedom is actually flattered by the most thorough-going slavery that has ever existed.

What is truth? For the multitude, that which it continually reads and hears. A forlorn little drop may settle somewhere and collect grounds on which to determine "the truth" - but what it obtains is just its truth. The other, the public truth of the moment, which alone matters for effects and successes in the fact-world, is today a product of the Press. What the Press wills, is true. Its commanders evoke, transform, interchange truths. Three weeks of press-work, and the "truth" is acknowledged by everybody.

With the political press is bound up the need of universal school-education, which in the Classical world was completely lacking. In this demand there is an element - quite unconscious - of desiring to shepherd the masses, as the object of party politics, into the newspapers’ power area. The idealist of the early democracy regarded popular education as enlightenment pure and simple, and even today one finds here and there weak heads that become enthusiastic on the Freedom Of The Press - but it is precisely this that smoothes the path for the coming Caesars of the world-press. Those who have learnt to read succumb to their power, and the visionary self-determination of Late democracy becomes a thorough-going determination of the people by the powers whom the printed word obeys.

No tamer has his animals more under his power. Unleash the people as reader-mass and it will storm through the streets and hurl itself upon the target indicated, terrifying and breaking windows; a hint to the press-staff and it will become quiet and go home. The Press today is an army with carefully organised arms and branches, with journalists as officers, and readers as soldiers. But here, as in every army, the soldier obeys blindly, and war-aims and operation-plans change without his knowledge. The reader neither knows, nor is allowed to know, the purposes for which he is used, nor even the role that he is to play. A more appalling caricature of freedom of thought cannot be imagined. Formerly a man did not dare to think freely. Now he dares, but cannot; his will to think is only a willingness to think to order, and this is what he feels as his liberty."

Oswald Spengler - "The Decline Of The West"


David K Wayne said...

I know Ozzie would offer his two penneth at some point. Bet he still bought it for the boobs and footy though...

Although the Gnauriad's efforts have been admirable (to the extent that they're doing what journalists are supposed to do), why am I starting to see this as a 'covert spectacle' a war over newer media - TV of course, but particularly the future direction of the internet? Especially in light of the Murdoch clan's stated aims, and the Gnadriau media's increasing emphasis as an online brand?

Just speculation, but - I reckon both parties knew print journalism's days are numbered. This may be a battle in a larger war, over what they can salvage from the death of newspapers.

Phil Knight said...

The Speng might be dead, but he still gives us plenty to chew on. I like to think he would be hooked on Mystic Meg's column.

As for the idea of print media being on the verge of extinction, nothing could be further from the truth. Print is a reliable, established medium. The internet is a finicky, energy-hungry example of techno-complexity whose half-life will be far shorter than people expect.

British Gas are talking about raising their electricty prices by 18%. You'll be amazed at how quickly peripheral items like home computers start to be disconnected.

Enjoy tweeting Miley Cyrus while you can, is my opinion.

David K Wayne said...

I don't mean print media, rather big-time newspapers. Their sales are declining fast, give or take big scandals like this one. The upscale readers advertisers seek are the big prize for proprietors now. It's the old 'why Crossroads got cancelled despite being top ten in the ratings' - no one cares what poor/old people want.. you can't sell them expensive tat.

And the energy price thing is a real bloody scandal - buried beneath the saga of media at war with itself. Never mind boycott NI papers - we need a mass 'not paying the bill' protest. Nowadays they send you court threats if you're over a week late. Let's see them try when most of the country gets deliberately tardy.