At this point, we can say that things are more or less over: President Obama announced on Friday that the American government is abandoning the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, as neither side has been ready to make “tough decisions.” Basically, Obama was repeating what Secretary of State Baker once said to Israeli Prime Minister Shamir, following an earlier collapse of attempted peace negotiations: “Give us a call if you decide to get serious.” In response, Netanyahu’s office has already complained about the “soft” treatment that the Americans are allegedly giving the Palestinians.
Immediately, the Zionist regime (not my term: that’s how this administration defines itself) has initiated a hasbara campaign — basically, a PR attack — directed at the Israeli public. (“Hasbara,” literally, “explanation,” is the semi-official code in Israel for its propaganda efforts.)…
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. …
Letters from The New School for Social Research
Here are two remembrances of a distinguished colleague, Jonathan Schell, who died last Tuesday. Miller wrote his as a letter to the members of the Committee on Liberal Studies, where Schell once taught. Matynia’s is a remembrance of Schell’s public engagements as a writer and public actor, often contributing to the work of the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies.
I learned today of the death of Jonathan Schell, a friend and former colleague.
It is not widely known, but Jonathan was instrumental in the transformation of liberal studies at the NSSR in the 1990s.
Over lunch one day in 1994, Jonathan expressed his interest in teaching — and also expressed his frustration that most veteran journalists are able only to teach in journalism schools. …
Sherry Turkle and our relationship to the digital
“Where are the sensitive machines … ?” So goes part of a tweet reproduced on the flyleaf to Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together. The lament is not new. Over 30 years ago the designer and design theorist John Chris Jones pointed to the low sensitivity of technical systems to humans and contrasted this with extreme adaptations that technical systems demanded of their human subjects. Adorno, in 1942, had already thought something of the same. Rejecting the common idea that technology is somehow “outside” of us, he insisted on the contrary that “the new human type” as he put it, “cannot be understood without awareness of what he is continually exposed to from the world of things about him, even in his most secret innervations.” And he added for good measure: “Technology is making gestures precise and brutal and with them men.” …
An ongoing discussion with Jeffrey Goldfarb
This post is the first of two making a series of points: Here I answer Jeff Goldfarb’s points in the post he devoted to our common classes. In the second, I will stress a couple of issues that have to do with my central concern: the role of media as “showing.”
On media power and resistance:
Goldfarb writes, “Dayan thinks the media set the agenda more thoroughly than I think actually happens. I see not only the possibility, but also the reality of resistance, even when it doesn’t prevail… The power of big media is great, but it is something else completely if it faces persistent resistance.”
In answer to these two points, let me answer that I am less interested in quantifying power than qualifying power.
In my view the power of the media lies not only in the consequences of what they show, but in the very fact of showing it. …
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. …
A seismic shift in social behavior has occurred over the last decade that to the best of my knowledge was not forecasted by futurists.
While in the early 80s we wrote and read about telecommuting, the evolution of Arpanet, the workings and impact of smaller, less expensive, more mobile computers, the progeny of CB radio, the future of what was then known as videotex and teletext, and the commercial beginnings of satellite communication, no one forecast a radical change in Western social behavior. The change has been dramatic.
We have become the Interruptive Society – interrupting and interrupted.
Elevators have become phone booths. The preface to almost any public event, sacred or profane, is an announcement to shut down the beepers, pagers, and cell phones. …