Fake vs. Fox News: OWS and Beyond (Introduction)

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In December of 2011, I took part in a very interesting conference in Sofia, Bulgaria. The conference participants were asked to respond to the work of the media theorist, Daniel Dayan (my dear friend and colleague and Deliberately Considered contributor) and to answer a straightforward question – “Is democracy sick of its own media?”

I presented a mixed answer: yes, when in comes to troubling developments in television news; no, when it comes to the effervescence of television satire and the social media. I closed with a proposal to Daniel to co-author a book, linking his ideas about “monstration” with mine about the politics of small things. While a book may or may not be forthcoming, a dialogue here at Deliberately Considered will appear in the near future.

In my paper, which I present here as an “in-depth” post, focused on the American case, I argued that we live in both the best of times and the worst of times concerning the relationship between media and democracy. Fox Cable News is relentlessly confusing fact with fiction with partisan intention, and serves as a model of media success, both financial and political, while responses to Fox including by the TV satirists, the famous “fake news” journalists, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, on Comedy Central, who also have interesting imitators around the world, present important challenges to Fox and its influence on common sense.

These media developments, I sought to demonstrate, are connected to significant new American social movements: the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. In the case of OWS, and other new “new social movements,” social media is of crucial importance. They are providing new health to democracy globally in many different political contexts.

I maintained in my Sofia paper, that the relationship between social media and OWS is a significant manifestation of the way the politics of small things have become large in our world. I see in this a demonstration once again of what Vaclav Havel called “the power of the powerless.” I am now facilitating a wonderful workshop on this, with young scholars, investigating this power as it is constituted in Russia, Romania, Morocco and Poland, as well as the United States. More from them in the future.

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