thought – less
July 31, 2012Posted by on
Programmes on television with a historic or political bias tend to attract my attention. I would suggest that history and politics are indivisible, especially geopolitics, either by direct implication or by intended inferences you may be drawn to. I think that political programmes intending to entertain, also intend to portray – or to influence – contemporary history. While this may be obvious, in the past I’m sure that I felt entertained, rarely recognised any attempt at what may be seen as ‘thought reform‘ by the media, in this context, empathy with a programme’s content could also be described as thought reinforcement.
In terms of thought reinforcement, a programme that influenced me was The Boys from the Black Stuff, a programme that may have done more to bring about the demise of the Conservatives, than Spitting Image or Cash for Questions. I included a clip from Yes Minister in a previous post, a series that is now subject to much political interpretation. Was it left wing, or was it right wing? Both positions, in my opinion, missing the point. Certainly Thatcher’s appearance in the programme had a self interested political objective. But the programme had more to do with the established bureaucracy – the Civil Service – emasculating political (Tory) ministers holding office, which may have been an intended left wing bias.The programme’s political influence heralding the appointment of apparatchiks to oversee the established bureaucracy. It probably did nothing to advance the principles of public choice theory, a politically intellectual concept that fails to take into account inherent public cynicism being the counterpoint to any perceived public lack of intellect.
The television series from the USA , The West Wing was entertaining but on reflection makes me wonder if attempts at thought reform by media have ever been subtle. In The West Wing it was always Democrats good, Republicans bad. The latest television offering from Aaron Sorkin – The Newsroom is in a similar vein. Having watched The Newsroom’ – ‘The 112th Congress’, an audience in the USA may think that there is no subtlety in the programme’s political bias, something that right wing media reports would seem to endorse. To a foreign observer, I now find myself having to contend with reverse psychology in that the protagonist in the series, supposedly being a Republican, is attacking Republicans. And, on further investigation, discovering that the implicit antagonist ‘Koch Industries Inc’ actually exist. So here is a programme that does entertain, yet at the same time propagates what may well be factoids, while leading you to infer them as being factual.
Non of this may matter because most viewers are simply ‘entertained’. However television rarely sets out to simply entertain, it invariably seeks to inform and influence opinion while entertaining and may be it’s right to do so. If the intended information propagated is believed by most people watching a television programme, just how influential are these self appointed custodians of ‘thought reform in entertainment’. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? A phrase I would translate as: ‘Who has custody of the custodians?‘