We Have Six Televisions
We Have Six Televisions

We Have Six Televisions

Are you surprised? Do you imagine that because I am a critic of popular culture I wouldn’t be caught dead watching Dance Moms? If so, you’ve been reading too many academics who came to popular culture only after it became Europeanized and hot. When I was in graduate school, the voracious maw of theory had only begun to invade and chew up the objects of everyday life into unrecognizable form. There were as yet no popular culture departments, the closest you could get was film studies—within which you could study Nosferatu but not Jaws.
Five Things I Hate About Broadcast “News” Today
Five Things I Hate About Broadcast “News” Today

Five Things I Hate About Broadcast “News” Today

This article also appeared on The Huffington Post.

When Walter Cronkite was on for 20 minutes a night, focusing on unsubstantiated rumor was a luxury news television couldn’t afford. Now, the need to fill up space and keep audiences tuned in and ratings high has elevated speculation and spicy headlines to the status of “news” and television creates as much of it as it reports.

Daniel Boorstin, way back in the sixties, predicted this turn. Mass media, he warned, generates “pseudo-events.” A pseudo-event is something that acquires its reality not because it is accurate, but simply because the media has reported it, repeated it, exaggerated it, re-played it, made a mantra of it. A classic early example is Richard Jewell, who was wrongly accused of being the pipe bomber at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. All we heard about for weeks was the duct tape found under his bed. No real evidence against him existed and he was ultimately exonerated, but that duct tape was made into such a compelling detail that many people today still think he was the bomber.

Today, the pseudo-event rules the air-waves, especially on the rolling news channels where leaks, poll results, gaffes, “optics” and concocted “scandals” are immediately turned into high-voltage headlines and endlessly repeated, organizing people’s perceptions into yet-to-be-analyzed “narratives” of dubious factual status.