Friday, 12 April 2013

Ignorant applause


It seems to me that whatever  press regulation results from the Leveson Inquiry may be aimed at fostering social ignorance rather than controlling the detail of what we know. The low information voter is not merely a social phenomenon, but a largely successful official policy.

Overt attacks on internet freedom may not be necessary if mainstream media continue to understand the political and therefore commercial advantages of keeping things trivial. Not an unlikely assumption is it?

So moves towards controlling the web may not be aimed at controlling a minority of sceptics, but at maintaining the current level of mainstream popular ignorance. Particularly ignorance about policy matters and the personal behaviour of the elite. Expenses and outside interests spring to mind here.

If history is any guide, then dumbing down mainstream news and comment is at least as effective as direct, overt control. In fact it is better, because scepticism doesn't disappear underground. The best way to control scepticism may be to sideline rather than suppress it.

For example, mainstream celebrities foster ignorance in their target audience simply because it makes life easier. Rather like stage magicians, they pull the behavioural strings and press the buttons but would never dream of explaining how it's done - the psychology behind it. Mainstream politicians watch, learn and do the same – they much prefer ignorant applause over that never-satisfied critical nit-picking.

For most celebrities, a sceptical audience would expose their threadbare talents, so celebrity politicians such as Tony Blair, Hugo Chávez, Barack Obama based their popularity on fostering ignorant applause rather than critical acclaim.

Critical acclaim is hard to attract and even harder to keep. Tweaking the emotional strings of a bovine audience is much easier and more reliable for performers who know their audience, know how to get bums on seats and keep the critics firmly in their place. It's a gift and David Cameron doesn't have it.

So those who prefer life as autonomous individuals find themselves in a world of ignorant applause and the web may not change that to any great degree. They soon find there is no mainstream audience to join, no mainstream performance to their taste.

Yet strangely enough, those who prefer life as autonomous individuals also find themselves in a more egalitarian world too. Not a large world as far as one can tell, but strangely egalitarian. The status-free world of detached observers.


Anonymous said...

A good slab of the conference, seminar and presentation business is corporate entertainment - a day out, a jolly, a chance to meet others of the same trade. Successful speakers are selected on presentation skill and how well they work the crowd, one way or another it is a money business.

Beware applause, you have to be really really bad not to get applauded, but do not believe your applause, in the foyer they whisper - that fellow R - total crap. Another thing, notice how the more important the speaker the less substantial the speech - all controversy trailed weeks ago, no surprises, just the great man/woman telling you what you know - comfort food for the ears.

Cameron? I feel sorry for him, he will likely get in next time but only because there is no credible alternative - Labour is still unelectable and the Kippers too small. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Demetrius said...

Having been reading stuff for a little while now it does seem to be becoming harder and harder to find either reliable information or really informed comment, never mind genuine attempts at balance. The Slog (Wards Log) today complains about much the same.

A K Haart said...

Roger - you think Cameron will be given another term? It's not what the polls say, but there's some way to go yet.

Demetrius - yes, reliable information is a problem. On the whole I find apparently alarming information tends to be unreliable. The world is more stable than many people claim.

I'm sure political trends are a problem though.