Interesting discussion. I’ve read through it all before commenting, so I’ve just got some general two-cents’-worth on a few of the points raised…. (Sorry in advance: Too long; don’t bother to read….)
The problem I think is not so much that the media is entertainment and no longer The Fourth Estate </gravitas>, but rather that it’s both, all the time. Kathryn Ryan (random example) can be a pretty astute interviewer on some subjects, and a complete plonker on others. And sometimes it’s all just so much space-filler.
Yet it all carries (when it wants to) that air of authority reserved for “serious news”, meaning any garbage can come across as profound. It’s all in the presentation.
For me, false equivalence has been the theme of the year, and it’s been distressing at times listening to Guyon and Susie chasing stuff that really just isn’t very important – and seeming kind of oblivious to that.
In this environment, it’s very difficult for your average worn-out punter to discern what they should and shouldn’t care about. And in that regard, it’s quite possible that in recent weeks the left’s message has been hampered by an over-abundance of information.
If we’re talking wish-lists for media re-birthings, then, I’d like to see more emphasis on careful attention to the question of which issues are really worth digging into. Eg, alliances among National politicians/strategists and some sleazy blogger creeps can be left to the gossips or simply to fester in the public’s imagination because that stuff is, I’m afraid, a bit meh ultimately. However, within all that there are some real stories, but time and care and communicative skill have to be employed to bring out their import. I got the impression too often during the Dirty Politics days that the media was lurching from one story to the next, encountering the same brick walls, and suffering from not having had the time to reflect on what actually made something a story worth hearing about.
Also: if political journalism can decide (as it clearly has) that its primary focus should be on the spectacle – ie, on analysis of political outcomes (Eg: How will the public read it? What will the impact be? What does this mean for Winston? etc), then it could just as easily decide that its focus should be on something less facile, eg, Are we getting satisfactory answers? What do these contradictions suggest? What are the possible explanations for the data as they appear to be?
Keith is saying the media should be capable of alerting the public to the important stuff. Andrew Geddis is saying, well, maybe the public know what’s important to them; stop patronising everyone; and if democracy’s really in trouble, well, wouldn’t we all be out in the streets?
Well, no, we probably wouldn’t. We’d probably love and revere our rightful masters and stay that way for 500 generations.
You know, for the last twenty years or so we’ve had outraged puritans, from, I don’t know, Kim Hill to John Banks, reviling this “postmodernism” thing that’s been taught in the universities because it says that everything’s relative and uncertain and up might just as well be down and good might just as well be evil, and there’s nothing to say for certain that any one thing is better than anything else.
What these idiots have never seemed to grasp is that “postmodernism” has been about describing and analysing the social and intellectual and cultural conditions whereby those kinds of equivalences become possible in the shared consciousness of a people. It’s not about promoting them; it’s about helping people to see them.
You know, it’s not those evil “postmodernists” saying there’s no difference between the ethical behaviour of a sports team and that of the governing party of a country. It’s not those academics arguing that pretty much anything that might get in the way of a business plan is expendable for efficiency’s sake. It’s not them treating a pro-forma electoral office letter from eleven years ago as equivalent to, well, to anything bad the other side may have done.
What I always want to say (and sometimes do say) to neolib and libertarian types who are just so quick to deride anything that has the audacity to complicate anything is, “Look, if your default setting is to dismiss any analysis beyond your immediate functional imperative, you’re basically saying that all human endeavour is just a big old waste of time. Bugger religion, screw philosophy, damn the sciences and social sciences, the arts and humanities, and a pox on the houses of sentiment and compassion. Hmm, doesn’t it strike you that that’s a somewhat unsustainable position, long term?”
Part of me agrees with the arguments Andrew Geddis has made up-thread, but there again I see this great equivocating and I have to say, no, democracy takes enormous energy to be sustained; it requires work; and the greatest work is in making power answer to powerlessness – because that goes against all our deepest, most basic settings.
The answer to the media question doesn’t lie in a return to honorable public broadcasting and increased regulation around the Official Information Act.
I think Jon Stewart is a better model.
This really bugs me.
There are two primary issues here:
1. Dirty, nasty "attack" politics.
2. Serious constitutional abuses that -- and this is no overstatement -- erode the fragile democratic conventions of this country.
To say that everyone is involved in #1-type behaviour is "true" in a crude, insensitive, grandly equivocating kind of way, but it's a vacuous position to take.
To say that everyone is involved in #2-type behaviour is really to miss the point quite enormously. Because everyone is not. And if they are, and we can see it as plain as day, they should be held meaningfully to account.
Forming itself, golem-wise, into humanoid shape, the slimy stuff now assumed an angular disposition and made a tired, stertorous address:
“I seek vengeance,” it rasped, “against the illegitimate progeny of crimes against the written word, such as this tangled mess you’ve found yourselves here born into.
“I see myself, if you like, as a selective abortionist, invading literary spaces and obliterating, preferably at an inchoate stage, abominations such as you two….
“(Regarding your ‘Russian’ friend, I’m reserving judgement for the time being, but I don’t, to be frank, live in hope of seeing her character flourish.)”
“Good Christ,” Stud whispered. “You’re the demon who brought down Archer, the merciless one who saw to it that the only copy of my autobiographical Days of Darkness manuscript fell beneath that Rajasthani train just in time to be buried by a mountain of noisome human waste….”
“And yet Harry Potter lives,” observed Tatiana drily.
it’s tough to compare Hope and Wire with Treme
Yet Treme still wandered at times and didn’t always deliver.
I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on this. I thought it was basically flawless.
What kept me watching was the music, ... - and the way music wove itself into the storylines.
And how the music was basically a character? And how it was given so much space and time? I loved how Treme was an unabashed celebration of all the stuff that makes life actually worth living, none of which is tv.
Blair Parkes’ excellent ‘Chimney Book’ video
I’m not so convinced by the view that’s been expressed by a few people above that individuals will inevitably be frustrated at not finding their individual experience represented. I feel quite strongly – while acknowledging that I can only speak for myself – that the experience has been primarily a collective one, and that that’s its defining feature – that its collectivity contains within abundant space all the individual stories there are, and that they are known without having to be known.
I also think it needs to be said that trying to dramatise this thing in this way was and must be an enormous artistic challenge, one in which failure is pretty much guaranteed. So if you like your victories Pyrrhic…
But for me it’s the politics or at least the lack of political traction; in Wellington last week it became apparent that nobody, esp the journo’s and pollies gets the Anger. The visceral fury of Christchurch citizens.
Best way to dominate a political struggle? Deny its existence.
And politics seem to be inevitably polarising, so what I take from a lot of the comments here is the feeling that if this show doesn’t foreground that struggle in a perceptive way, and doesn’t appropriately articulate the experiences you describe, which have defined it – including the ugly and banal ones, like ennui and malaise and voiceless frustration, but also the deeper and more mysterious ones, like a collective loss of place, of terra firma, of a cultural landscape – then that can only mean that, as a political representation, it is part of the whitewash and is speaking in the enemy’s voice (to be slightly malodramatic).
Kids in a band would have made more interesting characters than a crooked lawyer.
Like these dudes maybe:
Seems a shame you’ll never know how right- or wrong- you are
Hey Rob. But perhaps, koan-like, I can find peace in that perpetual state of unknowing :)
To be honest, I actually feel a genuine fear of being triggered -- not because of the quake stuff, for god's sake, but because it might set off memories of the last piece of nz drama I watched, Top of the Lake, which has to be one of the strongest contenders we've seen, since Russian Ark eclipsed Eyes Wide Shut, for recipient of the much-sought-after Worst Piece of Over-rated Shit in History award.
I haven't seen it, and I won't, so I'm arguably not entitled to judge, but I will.
I'm unsurprised by the tenor of the comments appearing above. It sounds positively dreadful, and in a dreadfully predictable way.
A focus on discrete personal narratives is entirely wrong, for a start. Those events were (probably all such catastrophic events are) characterised by a dissolution of the discrete. Borderlines were reduced to dust and rubble in ways unimaginable and surreal. Linearity, tightness of narrative, concepts, notions, representations -- these were precisely the (fictional) experiences that could not be dignified by an encounter with collapse.
Notice how Treme picked up its story months after the flood -- and its discrete, personal narratives grew tentatively, piecing themselves together, slowly, in a coherent marriage between form and content. Not some blustering hurricane of a writer telling the world how it was.
I'll take David Simon over Preston any day, and a postcard from New Orleans to Washington DC was for me a more than articulate telling of what needed to be told about Christchurch. Watch that, Auckland.
Post-earthquake, there was an abundance of creativity in Christchurch. What it bores me to call art was produced in small, quiet ways, for all the right reasons, by all kinds of folks. It was sense-making, exploratory. It was the rediscovery of voice. It was real.