The Homo Mediaticus and the Paralysis of Critical Thought

Massimo Ragnedda, The Homo Mediaticus and the Paralysis of Critical Thought, in

After the end of Nazism and fascism and with the fall of the Soviet block, our society has been partly founded on the myth of the freedom of the press and the freedom of thought. Fear of an Orwellian society causes us to reject and oppose any imposition that comes from high up. The human loves to feel free to think, to act with full autonomy, completely emancipated from external influences. Paradoxically, now, never has the homologation in behaviour and in the ideas of individuals been so apparent, manifesting in the ways in which we dress, eat, and in our desires and aspiration, but, above all, there is homologation in the way we think. The totalitarian regimes could not impose thoughts by force. In contrast, such regimes are sources of critical thought. In an obvious absence freedom of expression, the human reacts, almost instinctively, with cognitive force, developing “critical thought” to reject the “System”; in other words, facing a coercively created homologation, the human answers with nonconformist critical thought. Paradoxically, today, it seems that with the freedom to express one’s own opinions, the human does not develop critical thought. There exists an “abstract force” which imposes its own laws and advances its supremacy on politics: the market. This has happened primarily because of what the Frankfurt scholars call “the culture industry”; a critical analysis of the economic and cultural context in which we live shows the risks derived from a serialized production of cultural products and commercialisation of art. As Debord shows, the risk of a paralysis of critical thought comes from the “society of the spectacle.” This article is divided into three parts. The first part will examine the illusion of pluralism, where in spite of a plurality of media, the ideas diffused are similar; they are different only in appearance and not in reality. Read the rest of this entry »

The Political Use of Fear and News Reporting in Italy: The Case of Berlusconi’s Media Control

Massimo Ragnedda, Glenn W. Muschert, The Political Use of Fear and News Reporting in Italy:The Case of Berlusconi’s Media Control, in Columbus, Frank (ed.). Journalism in the 21st Century: A Time of Turbulent Change. Hauppage, NY: Nova Science Publishers (forthcoming)

Abstract: This chapter explores the relationship between fear of crime and political dynamics in Italy. Of particular relevance is the fact that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is the richest person in Italy, controlling a large share of the mass media industry. Berlusconi uses his media influence to cultivate the public’s fear of crime, for his own political gain. The chapter explores the social science literature concerning public issues, media coverage, and public fear. The Italian media landscape is described, including Berlusconi’s direct or indirect control of various media. The main thrust of the chapter explores the aspects of Berlusconi’s manipulation of crime coverage in media, which manipulates the public’s fear of crime, which in turn may be associated with voting behaviours. Concluding reflections explore the complexities of the model of media manipulation presented and the importance of the Italian case in a global climate of continuing capital accumulation in media industries.

Media and Control of Violence: Communication in School Shootings

Glenn W. Muschert, Massimo Ragnedda, Control of Violence, Heinz-Gerhard Haupt, Wilhelm Heitmeyer, Andrea Kirschner, and Stefan Malthaner (eds.) New York: Springer Publishing, (forthcoming).

Abstract: This chapter examines school shootings to explore the role that communication processes play in the dynamics related to the control of violence. We argue that much of what we observe in regard to school shootings is a mass-media phenomenon. Many such acts of violence carry expressive, communicative connotations, and thus school shootings should be understood as discursive processes. We present a model for this understanding, specifying the participants (i.e., shooters, mass media, and the public) and the directionality of communication that dominate the discourse. In particular we explore the performative script behind many school shootings and the mass media’s role in the emergence of rampages as a social problem, with an examination of how this fits into the natural-history approach to social problems. The discussion concludes with an assessment of whether the shooters’ performative script is acknowledged in policy responses to school violence.

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