To perceive the media as an institution that practices activism implies three things. First, individuals’ knowledge of the events in social and political institutions is purely determined by the hegemonic groups in society. Second, the media has gone beyond its role as an institution that provides objective information about the sociopolitical events in society. Lastly, the media’s role as an objective observer and reporter of the sociopolitical conditions in society requires the media to practice activism.
These implications resulting from the association of media and activism is narrowly enclosed in the perspective that the media is the same as the institution and practice of journalism. This understanding of the media in relation to a specific public institution however fails to account for the fact that the concept media does not only refer to a specific public institution as it also refers to all forms of disseminating information.
Such an understanding of the concept is thereby able to take into account its relation to other institutions and to other practices. Such is the case since I believe that this broader understanding of the concept media allows one to see that all institutions in the public sphere use media as a tool for disseminating a specific belief. From a theoretical level, this distinction between the broad and narrow definitions of media allows one to understand the relationship between media and activism.
In addition, it also allows one to understand the reason why certain individuals’ conceive the institution of journalism, that being the institution of the media, as an arena for the practice of activism. Examples of the use of the media for activism were pointed by out by several authors and groups such as Bey (2003), Boyd (2002), Boyd & Duncombe (2004), the Critical Art Ensemble (1994), and Hobsbawn (1971). Though these individuals provide salient points regarding the media’s activism, I have a reservation to one of the points presented in their text.
In the case of Bey (2003), although it is indeed true that human existence is temporal, I think that his association of this temporality to understanding sociopolitical events fails to consider that by attaching a specific label to these events, one is immediately negating their spatiotemporal existence by virtue of associating it to a lasting idea. This is in fact indirectly mentioned by Boyd (2002) as he points out that a political organization is associated with a specific cultural ideal.
Boyd & Duncombe (2004) implicitly states this in their article as they show that American movements have always been founded with a specific American ideal which is considered to possess a universal value. From these texts, in addition to the other texts mentioned above, I think that activism takes the form of an action that counters a specific practice or belief in society which is founded on a universal ideal associated with what is considered to provide the good to all members of society.
In reading Critical Art ensemble’s (1994) article along with Hobsbawn’s (1971) article, one seems to arrive at the idea that the media can be a useful tool for activism as it provides a location for countering certain hegemonic views in society. Historically, specifically in the United States, this can be seen as certain news reports provided information that counters the government’s supposed paternalistic approach when it comes to meddling with other countries’ wars.
I think that the media’s capacity to provide this information is equivalent to providing a counter-narrative against the deceptive grand narratives given by the government. This shows not only its representation of the practice of free speech in the country but also the overall practice of democracy in America. On a practical level, it is important to have institutions that counter the dominant views given in society as it helps people to develop greater social awareness.
In addition, the media’s practice of activism also allows other groups to become aware of the different forms of injustice in society. Though these pragmatic effects of activism may seem self-evident, one must consider that it is not always the case that people are aware of their government’s deceptiveness. In the case of the fiscal crisis in the country, for example, it was only recently that the American people were informed of its gravity. Another instance of this can be seen in what may be considered as the activism of those who wanted the end of the Vietnam War.
On the other hand, others may think that the media’s practice of activism may lead to communism. This however is too far-fetched since activism does not lead to communism. On the other hand, activism leads to greater public awareness and hence to a better democratic government. In general, based on these articles, I think activism ought to be placed in a positive light if and only if it is practice is always in line with ensuring the public good. References Bey, H. (2003). T. A. Z. : The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism.
New York: Autonomedia. Boyd, A. (2002). Truth is A Virus: Meme Warfare and The Billionaires for Bush (or Gore). In S. Duncombe (ed. ), Cultural Resistance Reader. New York: Verso. Boyd, A. , & Duncombe, S. (2004). The Manufacture of Dissent: What the Left Can Learn from Las Vegas. Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, 1. 3, 34-47. Critical Art Ensemble. (1994). The Electronic Disturbance. New York: Autonomedia. Hobsbawn, E. (1971). Primitive Rebels: Studies in Archaic Forms of Social Movement in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Manchester: Manchester U. P.