Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
I see your point about the media, afew, but I've been arguing for stories.  Perhaps we're seeing the same thing and calling it something different?

I think the media's job is to provide a narrative and context -- whenever we present a set of facts, we're telling a story.  Without narrative, everything's just a blob of isolated facts.  

In my view, this lack of either narrative or context is one of the big problems.  They tell personal stories sometimes.  They allow the political propagandists to tell their false stories, but otherwise they just report certain things out of context and the facts have little meaning.

I've actually been writing a post about this as it applies to Latin America.  We've had all these isolated reports -- uprisings in Bolivia and Ecuador, the back and forths with Chavez, removing Venezuela from our "compliant" category in the drug prohibition, Chavez moving his money to Europe -- it goes on and on, but what story is it telling?

Is it the story of an oppressed continent throwing off it's chains and being inspired by a good-hearted leader?  Is it the story of a wiley dictator stirring up rebellion?  Is it a build up to war or purely a political story?  What do all these moves mean and are they connected?

You probably know more in Europe than we do here.  Our press isn't connecting any of these dots.  In one week we learned (if we were paying very close attention) that Ecuador ousted their president and we also knew our gas prices went up.  And everyone heard about Pat Robertson calling for the assassination of Chavez.

But the press never told the story -- that Ecuador's uprising shut down oil production.  That they're one of our largest importers and the prices immediately went up.  That Chavez supported this move and Pat Robertson's remarks came the next day.

Anyway, all this to say I think telling stories is vital, but agree that the way the media has been doing it or not doing it is currently flawed.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Oct 15th, 2005 at 05:57:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The first thing to my mind is that narratives are imposed on us by those in power (political/military/corporate/financial) through the echo-chamber of the media - either compliant or manipulated, doesn't matter which. I think it's important to deconstruct and deny these narratives.

The second is that, though I think we should be clear about the message we want to give (what is this all about?), we need to be very wary (and very smart) in using narrative ourselves. To put it bluntly, we'd better be damned right in the story we choose to tell. It had better correspond to reality. Because we don't have the power they have to go on churning out hype. And because successful stories (by which I mean stories that grab people's imagination enough to move them even to action) are a responsibility.

Your example of Latin America is a good one. Dare we say that it's a continent rising up and throwing off its chains? That's a powerful narrative, but I wouldn't want to take the responsibility for trying to sell it. OTOH, stating the facts and linking up the dots (that the Ecuador uprising cut off oil supplies) corresponds to reality and tells the true story -- and therefore informs people usefully (which, we agree, the media are not doing).

I think what I'm saying is we need to dig out the facts and present them without manipulating them in some search for a compelling storyline. Otherwise we're just "framers". True stories is what we want, and, in a sense, they tell themselves...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Oct 16th, 2005 at 05:31:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Okay, afew, I was just going to let this slide off into oblivion, but this particular argument has been niggling at me and now that the diary has been yanked back for a last gasp (thank you Bob and Colman), I'll muster a response.

Actually, I did respond over the weekend, but lost the comment and didn't have the energy to reconstruct it (and I run almost entirely on hot air, for you energy experts).  And actually, the original was so nice!  I don't know how I did it, but I basically said I thought you were completely wrong in the most complimentary fashion.  I just know I can't be that sweet again, I just don't have it in me.

And the thing is that I have such a high opinion of your opinions, that I really don't want to just come right out and contradict you.  So I'll beg your forgiveness in advance and just say it:  I think facts rarely speak for themselves except in the most simple of situations and, if taken out of context, the human brain will invent a narrative if none is provided. This isn't laziness, it's just how the brain sorts and stores information and makes sense of the world.

Providing a narrative is simply telling the story.  It's the only way to provide context, history, perspective and our accumulated knowledge to the facts.   In my view, is one of the most important functions of the media.  Just because they've perverted their job is no reason to disdain the function.

Now, I will reiterate that this has nothing whatsoever to do with manipulating, lying, hyping, or churning out propaganda, although it can be used for those things.  So can books, so can papers, so can statistics, so can words -- but we don't advocate getting rid of them.  We make distinctions and judgments.

I think one of the reasons these false narratives have taken hold is because no one is articulating a true narrative to counter it.  Facts and data won't do it alone -- people need both.

We often wonder why people are so stupid that they believe the false narrative of steady, strong, Republican leadership -- it is because the media is not reporting the true narrative.  And we often opine that the facts and data are all out there, often right in the very articles that are saying the opposite -- but the facts alone are not doing the job because, in general, the media isn't telling the story of Republican crimes and avarice (although I'm hopeful this is changing).

Someone needs to provide the alternate narrative.  That's actually what we here on the blogs have been doing and what we should be pushing the big media to do -- tell the story that matches the facts.  If the true story is being told, it'll trump the false narrative every time.  I know that bad people have been taking advantage of the format, but we can no more do away with narrative than with communication.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 19th, 2005 at 05:20:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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