Watching the world tumble down around us, the holy markets especially, what has amused and angered is the way in which the media refuses to let go of its Sunny Disposition on Life, the Universe and Everything. This would be pathetic if it wasn’t so rampant. The Times of India has plumped up its Delhi Times this weekend to ten pages filled with exhortations to shop and full-page ads on shiny commodities. Its spectacularly vacuous Sunday Times is bursting with stories about celebrities valiantly keeping up the Diwali spirit, and thumbing their noses at the looming depression by buying more Louis Vuitton bags.
On all news channels too, there has been a tendency to follow up a sombre story about the economic crisis with some razzle dazzle that is announced cheerily by the anchor – Bollywood ‘celebrity masala’ being the easiest ally to suppress uncomfortable thoughts about our world and its systemic crises. Any reference to the latter in order to question the order is attacked with a viciousness that is displayed by those whose fondest fantasy is questioned. How many voices of small investors, shopkeepers and traders have we heard in this continuous party the news channels have become? Apropos also the exchanges on Aditya’s post on Graziano Transmissioni and the discussions on Goebbelsian propaganda, I wonder if we are suffering chronically from what Herbert Marcuse called ‘The Happy Consciousness’ in his landmark 1964 ‘One Dimensional Man’. Some excerpts:
“The Happy Consciousness – the belief that the real is rational and that the system delivers the goods – reflects the new conformism which is a facet of technological rationality translated into social behaviour. It is new because it is rational to an unprecedented degree…The power over man which this society has acquired us daily absolved by its efficacy and productiveness. If it assimilates everything it touches, if it absorbs the competition, if it plays with the contradiction, it demonstrates its cultural superiority. And in the same way the destruction of resources and the proliferation of waste demonstrate its opulence and the high levels of “well-being”…This sort of well-being, the productive superstructure over the unhappy base of society, permeates the “media”which mediate between the masters and their dependents. Its publicity agents shape the universe of communication in which the one-dimensional behaviour expresses itself. Its language testifies to identification and unification, to the systematic promotion of positive thinking and doing, to the concerted attack on transcendent, critical notions…In the expression of these habits of thought,. the tension between appearance and reality, fact and factor, substance and attribute tend to disappear. The elements of autonomy, discovery, demonstration, and critique recede before designation, assertion, and imitation. Magical, authoritarian and ritual elements permeate speech and language. Discourse is deprived of mediations which are the stages of the process of cognition and cognitive evaluation…At the nodal points of the universe of public discourse, self-validating, analytical propositions appear which function like magic-ritual formulas. Hammered and re-hammered into the recipient’s mind, they produce the effect of enclosing it within the circle of conditions prescribed by the formula.”
Marcuse, H, Boston, Beacon Press, 1964