In summer of this year the political establishment was shaken by two things: the phone hacking scandal and the riots. These two events are the starting point of John Molyneux’s new book, which considers how the media operates, the power it holds, and how Marxists can relate to it.
The News of the World scandal highlighted the inextricable links between the media and the ruling class. Such links were put to great use as the ruling class began to react to the riots. As Molyneux says, “The papers, almost with one voice, echoed and reinforced the establishment line of condemning and denouncing the rioters.”
Molyneux reminds us that the response to the riots was no surprise; in fact the media constantly acts as a mouthpiece for establishment ideas.
The book deconstructs the idea of media impartiality, and argues that it is “profoundly politically, socially, ideologically and culturally biased” because it is, essentially, pro-capitalist.
He also dismantles the belief that the media is “just giving us what we want”. The book lays bare how programmes such as Big Brother and EastEnders actually reconstruct the dominant political ideology, and avoid challenging it entirely.
Reality shows such as The X Factor, which offer “illusory power” to their audience in place of any real control of society, are nicely summed up by the use of the famous aphorism from Mary Poppins, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down!”
Molyneux argues, however, that ultimately the, “media is the servant and not the master of the state” and its power is limited. This is partly through its dependence upon capitalists, and partly during high points of struggle when its powers of influence are also weakened.
For example, despite most mainstream papers backing the invasion of Iraq in 2003, two million people still marched against it. One of the most interesting parts of the book addresses how we can change the way we understand the media. Molyneux argues that alternative media is not enough.
The internet is both a blessing and a curse; it gives us a wealth of alternative material, which can sometimes be too much. In order to filter through information we must also develop an alternative worldview. This worldview is Marxism, and Molyneux highlights the importance of the revolutionary paper and other media for a revolutionary party.
Will the Revolution be Televised? is an important book considering current debates surrounding social media. It lays out a programme for Marxists dealing with the media, and offers us the knowledge with which to understand and challenge it. But it is also clear about what makes the media corrupt, and Molyneux insists that the overthrow of capitalism, is the only means by which a truly free and democratic media can ever be achieved.
Will the Revolution be Televised is published by Bookmarks, £5.00
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