The emergence of media: Humanity's endgame (Part Three)
By Mark Wegierski
It could be argued that today, American pop-culture and the world media-culture can be seen as becoming virtually coterminous. Media is thus, it could be argued, the instrument for American cultural imperialism, for the homogenization, rationalization, and technologization of the world. It is the visibly concrete way in which non-American cultures are attenuated, and opened up to consumption. Probably no country can long resist the excitement proffered by American sex, violence, and flash, which raises the ire of nationalists and traditionalists, who can see no way of confronting the seepage, and sometimes turn to violence and xenophobia. There is something uniquely alluring in this American combination of sex, violence, and flash, as even French cinema and television (which certainly has no lack of explicit sexuality) is becoming rapidly Americanized. It is interesting to note that, in the early 1990s, French protests over including culture in the GATT were one of the agreement's biggest controversies. It is possible to make here, as well, some pointed comments, in the style of Canadian philosopher George Grant, on Canada's own "cultural industries", and on what is said to constitute Canadian nationalism today – i.e., that the Canadian "cultural industries" today are virtually indistinguishable in their content from one North American (U.S. and Canada) mode of life.
The modern mass media, as an instrumentality which creates instantaneity; which abolishes social and national boundaries and horizons; which bombards one's mind with an unending stream of disquieting images, sounds, and speech; which destroys the quiet discourse of the book, ushering in the postliterate age and "the new illiteracy"; and which tends towards the construction of an autonomous electronic realm, thus attenuates much of what has traditionally been considered the sense of being human. It could be argued that it undermines rooted communities, as well as literary-humanistic culture, and ultimately chokes off the human faculties of real sympathy (for one's immediate neighbor) and real imagination, replacing these with a never-ending, and ultimately pointless, "jangling" of human society, psychology, and core-identity, leading more concretely to increased crime, violence, anomie, as well as the disenchantment of both the public-political realm, and of one's perception of one's stable place in the world. The information traffic or information overload most people are caught in today tends to create a "postmodern blur" of social existence and reality.
To a large extent, even more traditional media follow in the directions set by the electronic media -- for example, the mass-marketing of little but books like those by Stephen King (the jolt of horror), and Danielle Steele (the frisson of sex); the selling of movie-rights before the novel is even written; and the tendency of what was once called belles lettres or fine literature to cater to increasingly low tastes. Books are often today simply another form of increasingly vulgar entertainment to be crassly marketed.
The hoped-for arising of a concerted, critical theory of media, is seen as being of utmost importance to maintaining a true sense of humanity today and in the future.
In the processes of our being enveloped ever more deeply in the mass media field, it could be argued that we are becoming increasingly less of what was traditionally considered as being truly human. The emergence of electronic mass-media may ultimately be the endgame for our sense of true humanity.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.