Sunday, November 15, 2015

Double power of communication on the Internet: a new theory for terror journalism

At this point it’s our ingrained habit to rush with dizzying speed into hyper-political overdrive and treat any shocking new development as fresh fodder for an old argument. 
 Frank Bruni in the New York Times (14 November), writing about the Paris shootings on Friday, November 13. His Op-Ed was titled "The Exploitation of Paris." The point was to draw attention to the self-serving  nature of Twitter commentators whose reactive approach to news leaves little if anything for broader discourse. I am not interested in exploring these right wing nuts here.

I am concerned to identity the speed with which the Internet makes it possible for the irrational to double the irrationality of acts of terror. The double power of communication technology exploits the immediacy of the news and media in general to report, followed immediately by opinion. Both are defined by the irrational, leaving the global public unsure of what if anything is real, then questions of how to make sense of anything. Then a deepening sense of hopelessness.

Into this vacuum comes what Bruni refers to as "hyper-political  overdrive." And it is precisely this intensified environment that creates the hothouse for actions that trouble media critics.

Commentary should be possible, then welcomed, as an anti-dote to the endless flows of unmanageable news.

We need a new theory for terror journalism. What defines it would be the pause button. In other words, divide the double power of Internet based communication by two and come up with slow coverage. Very slow coverage. (In some cases, silence would be better than anything, while we make sense of the event. I disagree with blogger Sam Kriss, who endorses a politics of tragedy with an immediacy that gives too much away to speed, thereby denying space for strategy.)

A new theory of journalism would push against the grain of the necessity of news as "new," as happening now. It would limit the politicization of events, while making politics actually possible.

The old arguments rely on prejudice and immediacy for their currency. Better arguments rely on knowledge that seek a better way.

The result would be to halt the speeding train of bad politics in its digital (Internet) form. Somewhat like slow food, it would produce progressive responses to challenges whose history will not be understood in the latest news flash.