Monday, 12 March 2012

Critical targets

Sometimes the target of a critical blog post is more difficult to write than usual because socially it isn’t well-defined. The metaphors are weak or even missing and social cues are not strong enough to pinpoint the target with any degree of precision. The language is too diffuse.

Popular pundits tend to select easy critical targets rather than more diffuse, socially obscure targets that do not lie within mainstream social discourse. Yet any society is in part defined by these lesser targets where critical attacks are disallowed, circumscribed or the target simply sits below the cultural radar.

Issues that ought to be critical targets may escape mainstream analysis for a number of reasons, however deserving they are of full-blown targethood. Politics is all about creating false targets and shifting more deserving targets into the background so that critical social cues and metaphors fail to gain traction. This still goes on even though the internet has facilitated much more widespread target freedoms.

Take the BBC for example. It seems intent on making itself into a big fat target by its manifest failure to take advantage of target availability. Dodgy plumbers don’t really make the grade. Climate science would have been a glorious target with every shot guaranteed to hit the bull’s-eye - but no.

The BBC relies on mainstream targets with ready-made cues and metaphors. It does not seek new targets let alone give them traction - however worthy that might be socially or politically. This is what we mean by mainstream of course, but even an organisation as dismally mainstream as Auntie surely ought to take a peep beneath her skirts every now and then.


Sam Vega said...

Excellent post.

Often, we seem (either individually or collectively) to live in a sort of general unease about our culture and institutions. What is wrong seems more like a fog than a target; nothing to aim at, very little to actually see. Once things are crystallised and pointed out as targets, it all becomes very obvious and the cultural critics can let fly. Then, after a while, it all looks very hackneyed and the targets become "easy" or "obvious". Probably no less dangerous, though.

My guess is that the BBC is still aiming at the old targets that now look very obvious. This keeps the money rolling in, as most people don't want to deal with the level of nuance and uncertainty that the less obvious targets require. It is also, probably, a function of over-bureaucratised planning within the BBC.

It is similar to the psychological difference between awareness and concentration. The best bloggers have lots of the former, whereas the poor old Beeb has very little.

Anonymous said...

I think you are right about there being some diffuse, ill defined malaise. I feel we are accreting more and more subtle controls and limitations - not necessarily because they are needed but that monitoring and controlling and busybodying are the only games in town that pay - so for no better reason they happen.

A K Haart said...

SV - thanks and yes, what's wrong does seem like a fog of wrongness rather than something specific.

Roger - yes busybodying does pay, we've all seen it. It's why our public bodies have taken to the EU like ducks to water.