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"Systemic" Medialens BS  
Posted by Russ Bridger on January 23 2008, 21:13 » Uploaded 23/01/08 22:01  

There are people on the left who think the mere addition of the word "systemic" transforms a banal statement about capitalism into a cogent analysis. They're an embarrassment to the rest of us on the left.

Most intelligent people who comment on the capitalist system realise it's redundant to use the word "systemic", as you're already talking about a system. You wouldn't say, "the systemic failure of the system". That would be stupid, right?

David Cromwell (of Medialens), however, seems to think he's impressing journalists with this stuff. These quotes are from two emails he's recently sent to Hamish McRae of the Independent:

...In other words, the financial system, and the wider global economy, is systemically unstable; indeed, inherently inequitable. I'm wondering why you appear to reject such a rational analysis. (Email 1)

...There's plenty of evidence that what's happening in "the world as it is", is a systemic crisis in the global capitalist system. Such a clear-sighted, rational approach will enable us to better "understand and calibrate what is actually happening." (Email 2)

...Don't you think such a systemic appraisal is worth a leap of exploration in one of your columns? (Email 2)

I'm pretty sure mainstream journalists will sit up and pay attention to these original, genius-level insights into capitalist economics... if they can stop laughing, for a moment, at Cromwell's astonishing combination of pomposity and ineptitude.

COMMENTS Post comment


Comment 01 – Peter January 29 2008, 12:21

Medialens talk a lot about "analyses", systemic and otherwise, but what they offer isn't really analysis. Their "analytic" method boils down to starting with what they see as the absolute truth and then finding evidence and quotes which support that truth, while ignoring the evidence which contradicts it.

A good example is their claim that George Monbiot rarely if ever criticises the liberal media. This completely ignores all the occasions when Monbiot has indeed criticised the liberal media. Here's a good example from before Medialens came into existence:

Most newspapers expose only the misdemeanors of the powerless, while the central political issue of our age, the corporate takeover of public life, is left to tiny underfunded groups such as Corporatewatch to investigate. - Guardian, December 14, 2000

More examples here, in comments section

Comment 02 – Raoul Djukanovic February 6 2008, 14:18

Their "analytic" method boils down to starting with what they see as the absolute truth and then finding evidence and quotes which support that truth, while ignoring the evidence which contradicts it.

If only it were that rationally compassionate and, um, honest. And so on.

Remarkably, as one of the anonymous Davids wrote:

As you can see from our media alerts, we find material of value all over the place. My heroic co-editor read through Andrew Marr's My Trade and Jon Snow's Shooting History, god bless him! That was supererogatory, to say the least. We're now reading through Davies's book.[...]

Really? As in, like, digesting evidence and quotes? Or just gutting its "liberal herrings" for ritual disembowelment purposes?

Hell, even Andrew Marr coughed up gobbets supporting a "perniciously anti-journalistic" worldview.

But, as The Onion sage of stuffing once so memorably marvelled:

"I'd rather nail my bell-end ring than stand with a larger man."

Comment 03 – ALP February 7 2008, 00:39

Peter wrote:
"...but what they offer isn't really analysis"

To reiterate what I've said in another thread:

I see no reason why plain, simple language can't be used to describe precisely which "structural" or "systemic" factors are claimed to be leading a given journalist X to utter a given abomination Y.

But it usually doesn't work that way. Typically, Medialens fudge it. They provide no analysis of what a journalist says in terms of specific "structural" or "systemic" factors. Instead, there's the quoted piece of journalism, some adjectives which express how outraged we should be, some speculation about causes (often involving cod-psychology, quotes from Erich Fromm, perhaps a bit of Buddhist compassion thrown in) and some self-congratulation about the "rational analysis" (which, in fact, hasn't taken place).

Queries from sceptics are then dismissed with the line that "they just don't understand the systemic, structural factors at work". That's "actually" right. But they don't understand it precisely because it's never explicated in the first place.

In other words, it's an intellectual cop-out. It's a way of intimating "depth" where there's none at all.

Prove me wrong, Medialens fans. Show me a single example (please post a link) of a so-called rational analysis of "systemic" or "structural" factors on media output - and I'll show you the wool being pulled over your eyes.

(Btw, I'm not saying there aren't such factors affecting media performance - I'm saying Medialens don't "analyse" the relationship between these factors and media output.)

Comment 04 – Russ Bridger February 7 2008, 13:24

After repeatedly using the word "systemic" in a few brief emails, Cromwell's final write-up (a very long and tedious attempt to impress people with his reading-up on economics, without saying anything original) doesn't use it once. A Medialens first? LOL

Then the Daves post their CVs in turn (to show they've had real jobs), but Dave1 signs as "Eds" and Dave2 doesn't give his name. They each post separately under the username of "The Editors". What is it with the Daves and this strange anonymity? ROTFL



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