Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The view from Beijing

The Chinese Communist Party's mouthpiece, China Daily, isn't very impressed with the News of the World, and sees it as symptomatic of capitalist distortion.
Recently, News of the World, a newspaper under News Corporation, was shut down as a result of the phone hacking scandal. Some experts in Beijing and Shanghai believe that this incident directly exposes the inherent money-seeking nature of Western media today, and the false nature of the concepts of “freedom”, “impartiality” and “human rights” that they have long bandied about. As the scandal has continued to develop, it has become a major assault on the model of media supervision and control in the West.

It's hard to disagree with the basic points. Virtually all media academics - of which I'm half a one - would agree that the pursuit of profit has degraded the public sphere and commoditised readers and subjects alike. Furthermore, most leftwing commentators would agree (thanks to Gramsci, Foucault et al.) that 'freedom', 'impartiality' and 'human rights' are discourses used as weapons rather than meaningful terms with a causal connection to what we call democracy. Listening to Norman Lamont on Radio 4 yesterday describe the financial markets as democracy in action was chilling and demonstrative of this idea. Likewise the Murdochs explaining how much access they had to prime ministers.

Of course China is hypercapitalist now and was never communist in the purist sense of sharing resources and power equally amongst the citizens (you'd have to go back to Winstanley for that), so it's a bit cheeky of China Daily to accuse Murdoch of being a greedy tyrant! I certainly wouldn't want a media run along Chinese lines: craven, slavish and demonstrably false, but their analysis of Western media is pretty good.

There's only one solution. Everybody read Vole. I write it for free and say what I want. Though I would like access to the corridors of power.

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