EssaysMedia/Publics

Three Reflections on Media Responsibility: Discussing Issues of Monstration

How do you show people’s words?

One of the most interesting problems posed by centralized media and journalism is the problem of authorship. Any news item bears traces of the organizational processes it went through. These processes involve various interventions, by different actors. In a sense they are no less collective than those processes that add up to scientific discoveries. In both cases the notion of “authorship” is misleadingly individualistic.

Take the extreme case of op-eds. Op-eds come with an identifiable author’s signature. They are supposedly characterized by the existence of a simple, indictable origin. Does it mean they were not co-produced by the publishing organization? Does it mean they were not edited by the organization either politely through an exchange of letters and suggestions, or forcibly, through cuts, re-phrasings, and imposed titles? This may be done in the name of clarity. Yet many op-ed authors are extremely lucid writers and need no help in achieving clarity. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Reflections on a Revolutionary Imaginary and Round Tables

The new always appears in the guise of a miracle

This is the prepared text answering the question “What do we really know about transitions to democracy?” for  the General Seminar of The New School for Social Research, March 19, 2014.

It was a quarter of a century ago, in 1989, that a new kind of revolutionary imaginary emerged, one that promises a new beginning, and demonstrates the possibility of comprehensive systemic change without bloodshed. Velvet or otherwise un-radical, this kind of revolution has become a site of tangible hope, a site in which words have power, where people regain their dignity, and realize their agency through instruments other than weapons. Negotiated revolutionis not an oxymoron, but it is still an extraordinary event, as dictatorships are by definition opposed to any spirit of dialogue and compromise. …

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EssaysMedia/Publics

When the Pope “Drops the F-Bomb”

Meditations on media, society, and the philosophy of language

On March 3, 2014, a stream of troubling, breaking news about Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine was interrupted by another event, this time originating in the Vatican, which similarly reached prominence in journalistic organs. This event, however, was not a child abuse scandal, papal resignation, or other such event that typically brings the ancient Church into the headlines. It was, instead, no more than the fact that the Pope — the most visible scion of holiness in the West — swore.

Immediately, this must be qualified. As Bill Chappell of NPR clarifies, Pope Francis, whose native language is not Italian, made a pronunciation error in his address that led him to verbalize “caso” (“case,” “example”) as “cazzo,” a colloquial equivalent to the English “F-word.” And yet the gaffe was reported in such a manner that made it seem as if the Pope intentionally introduced vulgarity into his speech. …

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