The liberal media: valuable platform or figleaf for corporate power?
Given that the liberal media serve as a figleaf for corporate power - ostensibly challenging the established order but in fact substantively reinforcing it - Medialens ask the question: should progressive writers work in the corporate media, knowing that doing so would reinforce this "figleaf" effect? Medialens believe that if they do, they should at least use their position to challenge the corporate media and highlight its malignant effect on popular discourse. Put another way, if they cannot challenge that corporate structure within their writings, and still keep their jobs, should they then leave the media and write independently for the likes of ZNet? And if they choose to remain, and reinforce the figleaf effect, are they little better than collaborators?
The question's worth raising, but I think its pretty easily answered. You can reach a massive audience through the mainstream media and if you get the chance to put forward views in that forum which might not otherwise get an airing then you're practically obliged to take it. To what extent is it feasible to demand that writers in the liberal media bite the hand that feeds them? Is their failure to address this one particular issue (corporate media ownership) not compensated for by the good work they do on other areas? Take Robert Fisk, George Monbiot, Priya Gopal, Mark Steel. Does their failure to explicitly challenge the corporate media structure in their writings nullify all the other excellent work that they do? Would the world really be better off if Robert Fisk restricted himself to the ideological purity of the independent media and if, as a result, millions never read his vivid, intelligent and masssively informative accounts of the realities of the Middle East? Of course not. The answer to the question in the subject line for this post is "both". One has to deal with complex realities like this (e.g. ethical consumerism) by doing a cost-benefit analysis: will my actions cause more good than harm? Plainly Fisk's writing does more good than harm. We should be mindful of the figleaf effect that Medialens draw our attention to, but we need to think of intelligent ways of countering it.
I've been involved in a discussion on this topic on the Medialens messageboard. Here's the thread. My first contributions are made on the afternoon of today, September 30th.
As I say, I think the questions raised by the Editors are pretty easily answered. But they're legitimate questions nonetheless, not least because they encourage people like ourselves, who would like to see substantive change in the political economy, to consider some pertinent questions. How best to deal with the world as it is, so as to make it more the way we'd want it to be? That's a crucial, practical question for all activists.