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More reasons to read Socialist Worker

By: 
Melissa Graham

June 13, 2012

John Molyneux’s short book, Will the revolution be televised? A Marxist analysis of the media, sets out to answer a number of questions that radicals often pose about the media. He begins by looking at the irrationality of capitalism, and the media within it as a powerful tool of the ruling class, maintaining the status quo.

For those of us who have already radicalized, this statement may seem obvious. The media is not neutral, but is part of a system that protects itself from criticism, and where “common sense” ideas are those of the status quo. Molyneux sets out to examine how this takes place.

One of the key issues he examines is neutrality. Despite their claims to show all sides of an issue, the media tends to portray a particular view of the world: one where capitalist ideas are the norm and everything else is framed as radical. Molyneux uses examples from the 2011 London riots to show this, but here in Canada we have examples of our own. During the G20, police were framed as heroes while they treated protestors like cattle. We can also see it in the length of time it took for the English media to mention the Quebec student strike, waiting until they could silence it no longer. According to the mainstream media, there is no system but capitalism, and every person under capitalism should be striving for the same things

Molyneux also looks at who runs the media, and how that impacts what makes the news. His examples are based in the UK, but it’s not difficult to find similar sources of in the west. He argues that wherever you look in capitalist society, media is a tool of the ruling class developed by the ruling class. This isn’t limited to the news—game shows for instance, encourage the idea of competitiveness. Prizes are awarded to a lucky few for outdoing their opponents.

Molyneux also examines reality TV, how it has developed and how it promotes a particular view of society. While I am not sure I entirely agree with his conclusion that “in watching the programmes and, importantly, in discussing them with family, friends, workmates etc, viewers are able to use them as a sounding board by which to judge standards of conduct, norms of behaviour, in times when these are changing rapidly,” it is certainly an interesting point. What’s more interesting here is the notion that anyone can be a celebrity; yet another attempt by the ruling class to camouflage class boundaries.

Finally, Molyneux argues that rather than the media giving consumers “what they want,” they create a market for what they offer. In times when millions of people question the world around them, and when they are engaged in collectively changing the status quo, Molyneux shows how “what people want” from the media changes dramatically. If the media were really giving people what they were looking for, then there would be no need for articles like these. In fact, Molynuex leaves radical media out of the discussion for the most part. It would have been interesting to learn more about those impacts.

Most of the contents of this short book will not be new to those who have studied the topic, but it serves as an easy-to-read analysis of the mainstream press. Anyone who’s questioning why the media reports the way it does should read this book

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