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Habermas – What happened to the Public and Private Spheres?

The public sphere was at one point in time a place to discuss politics and books. The bougeoir class where well educated and took debate seriously. They talked politics. The bougeoir did not sit and listen to other people espouse their views, they talked to each other and all weighed in.

This debate has been replaced in current times with leisure activities, like TV viewing. Certain news networks have gotten completely out-of-hand, injecting their bias into the review of events. Fox News edit footage to create a perception of reality, without reference to reality.

On January 25th, 2011, Obama gave his State of the Union address. In it he told two jokes. They were both received very well. They can both be seen in the original speech here and here.  The first one was received with laugher and applause, the second was receieved with laugher.

One of the primary strengths of Obama is his oratory skills and like-ability. Karl Rove, George Bush’s Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff, came up with a political attack style that was different to any prior. He went after the strengths of political candidates instead of their weaknesses, throwing their strengths into doubt.

“[Rove] understands that while other people look for the weakness in an opponent and exploit that, Rove has long looked at the strength of an opponent.” … “In 2004, the number one thing that John Kerry offered was his heroic service in Vietnam, and so what Rove did was attack the strength of Kerry, not his weakness. What you had to do was confront Kerry’s strength in Vietnam by raising doubts about whether or not he was a hero and whether or not his service was really all that noble.”

(-PBS)

Fox News has taken this philosophy to heart. They took the jokes Obama said during the State of the Union, silenced the laugher, and added audio track with crickets-chirping. They then commented on how his jokes fell flat. This is an attack on a strength of Obama’s: being jovial and well-received by his audience.

This outlandish distortion of reality is abhorrent. This is the problem with politics today: journalistic organizations were born because the Public Sphere needed them to stay informed and debate. These journalistic entities were not owned by a corporate conglomerate. Rupert Murdock, the owner of News Corp (the umbrella under which Fox News and many other News agencies function) is the 38th richest person in the America, and News Corps is the worlds 3rd largest media conglomerate behind Walt Disney and Time Warner. This is a company, and using psychological tactics to influence the perception of the public is troubling. They tell people what they should think, and they turn a profit doing it.

Q: Our world views are being constructed by television personalities. Where can we go to find out whats actually going on?

A: (Not salons or Coffee shops, but) The Internet!

The internet is an egalitarian space similar to the Coffee Shops of the 18th Centuary. You can only access someone’s identity through a username/avatar, and that generally doesn’t tell you too much about a person. There are places online that actually try and perceive the world with the most objectivity possible, like factCheck.org, and websites that try to keep faux-journalists in line, like mediaMatter.org.

Then there are forums where people can come together and discuss political matters at hand: http://www.reddit.com/r/politics or SA Forums Debate & Discussion (to name a few). People who are interested in these matters and want to debate have a space where they can come, without reference to their class, and argue.

The internet seems to be re-creating this coffee-shop mentality towards Politics and discussion that was lost in the advent of broadcast media. If a News Company can doctor footage so blatantly and get away with it, influencing their viewers with proper-gander, then what is the point of these News Companies? Why do they exist? As more people start to take part in online community activity, the less relevant and influential this prior form of broadcast journalism becomes.