(June 3, 2013)
[Please include your first and last names, and your city and state of residence. Thank you.]
Circus without Bread: Gilles d'Aymery's Establishment Journalism
To the Editor:
Gilles d'Aymery's "Establishment Journalism" (Swans, May 20) makes for sour reading along with the morning papers here in London. The city used to be the newspaper capital of the world. Conservative broadsheets were sober and informative according to their lights. The liberal and Labour press had its serious say. Tabloid sheets, probably invented here, thrived. But they were in a category of their own, and readers knew it. Now all the papers, desperate to survive, are modeling themselves on the tabloids. Americans will recognize the phenomenon in what happened to The Chicago Tribune. Wrongheaded as it may have been, the Tribune was never cheap and sleazy. Now it's gone down tabloid alley.
What's more, it's no good claiming we must change with the times and that on-line reporting is doing the job that newspapers used to do. Ninety percent of what we read on our screens is just as trivial and even less skillfully presented than in the newsprint tabloids.
One would expect that what remains of sobriety in the UK would be represented by an institution like the British Library, heir to the tradition of the British Museum Reading Room. The present exhibition there (until September) is "Propaganda Power and Persuasion." Its general drift is that propaganda is neither good nor bad but simply one view of a situation. Apparently some people haven't realized that yet. The show is certainly worth a visit, full as it is of striking graphics from historical collections, relevant videos and curious information.
However, coming back to Aymery's article, the visitor leaves the British Library still in a sour mood. Just now propaganda isn't our problem. It's just a game that even the most naïve are on to. What we are up against is something else. The subjects that are reported and discussed in our media are not the important ones. The word is "Don't be so heavy. Lighten up and be the kind of zombie we can manipulate." Bread and circuses? No. As someone sharper than I has said, we are now treated to a circus without bread.
London, England, UK - May 21, 2013
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