The denials that the News of the World would be salacious which Murdoch made when he took over the paper in the social democratic era give way to neoliberalism’s claim to be only giving people what they want.
What may be even more damaging about the claim that the people “want” Murdoch-style tabloids is that the same argument is made by the defenders of the “quality” press. This claim is usually made in sorrow: once there was a time when the media gave people the informationpublic questioning they needed to know, but now commercial pressures encourage the media to give people only what they want. This ties in to a really pernicious idealization of the press, which sees the distraction and propaganda roles of the media as occasional deviations from its higher calling. On the contrary, it is the period in which the mainstream media was anything other than craven which is the aberration (lasting approximately the running time of All the President’s Men).
Furthermore, this idealization of the press proceeds via a denigration of the public. Setting up journalists as professionals willing to give people what they need, not what they want, takes what the public “wants” as fixed.But public wants all kind of different things, and, particularly, what’s visible in the public’s desires depends on all kinds of circumstances. It’s no accident that the periods in which American journalism has came closest to being the crusading institution it likes to imagine itself as have been periods of widespread and active public hostility to the establishment; that is, at times when the public wanted oppositional journalists. So, to the question that k-punk asks:
Neoliberalism has failed, the patrician culture it defeated cannot be revived, nor should it be – so where next?
I think the answer, at least in large part, lies outside the press, or perhaps in some kind of inside/outside strategy: external organizations which could both establish and take advantage of the kind of public culture that would make the public’s demand for serious media visible.