The Last Unchecked Power

Sorry to continue my recent media trip here, but this (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/world/middleeast/28jazeera.html?adxnnl=1&src=un&feedurl=http://json8.nytimes.com/pages/world/middleeast/index.jsonp&adxnnlx=1296230452-/r9lQmVeOOSO0CN7GRWhjw) freaks me out.

The article discusses how this week’s popular uprisings in the Middle East are “impossible to imagine” without the shaping of a Pan-Arab narrative on Al-Jazeera.  These uprisings SEEM to be a good thing, although it is yet unclear in Egypt what sort of government “the People” are pushing for: there are some strange alliances among the masses of protesters.  Al-Jazeera is just the most recent example of a larger phenomenon that worries me in the United States and the rest of the world: namely the free press.

Of course, a “free” press seems vastly superior to a heavily restricted one, but as the media insisted throughout the Loughner affair, “the words we use have a real power.”  The article I cited above demonstrates the power of free media to produce whatever effects it desires — and media outlets (as entities) clearly have wills and desires.

That power (the power to manipulate reality through language) is a power that we all have in a limited way.  It is only when that power becomes so densely consolidated that it actually becomes a threat to liberty and to liberal values, which both depend upon some measure of restriction in thought, word, and deed.  It is that restriction that guarantees the rights that make a society a free one.

And so, a very difficult paradox: free (free market) media is a cherished (and apparently essential) function of a free speech doctrine, and yet it constitutes the largest threat to the authentic political agency of the demos.  Mass media is the last unchecked power.  And that, of course, makes it the power most in need of checking.

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2 Responses to The Last Unchecked Power

  1. JBS says:

    I think the BBC is a good example of a consolidated free press that remains checked by a government entity and continually produces excellent media and does not hold as large of an ideological aim in its news. Strange that you suggest “checking” the power of the media, wouldn’t this mean some form of government regulation? Or are you merely suggesting that individuals need to “check” this power, which they never will because they (individuals) aren’t smart enough.

  2. Mike Duncan says:

    The Sedition Act and its ilk have not aged well.

    We can’t do much about A-J. Nor, I think, should we – I’ll give Fox News a pass, even. Freedom of speech holds no truck with convenience. That’s what I like about it the most.

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