(AUDIO) Jay Rosen on the Media’s Control of Political Debates
[updated below (w/transcript) – Update II – Update III]
This week, Jay Rosen — the NYU Journalism Professor and author of the PressThink blog — wrote one of the best and most insightful pieces yet on how the American media artificially limits the range of political debate. I recommend as highly as possible that the entire piece be read — here.
Rosen begins by citing a chart from the 1986 book, The Uncensored War, by Daniel Hallin, which defined the three categories of arguments that the media employed during the Vietnam War: (1) those within the “Sphere of Consensus” (ideas deemed so plainly true that they required no debate or examination); (2) those within the “Sphere of Legitimate Controversy” (ideas deemed reasonable enough to be debated and disputed within mainstream discussion); and (3) those within the “Sphere of Deviance” (ideas so plainly wrong, radical and fringe that they deserved no hearing at all):
According to Rosen, the diagram depicting these three spheres is “easily the most useful diagram  found for understanding the practice of journalism in the United States, and the hidden politics of that practice.” Rosen argues — quite persuasively — that American journalists, usually unthinkingly (i.e., without even realizing that they do it), control and restrict political discussions by using these categories for virtually every political issue of any significance. No theory regarding how the media controls political debate is complete without reference to Manufacturing Consent, but Rosen’s explanation is quite compatible with it and, standing alone, has great value.
He’s my guest on Salon Radio today to discuss his critique and several related issues, including the ability of political figures to move ideas from”deviance” status to the realm of the legitimate; how supporters of those political figures often excuse their failure to do so by accepting artificial (and false) claims about what is and is not “practical” or “doable”; and the role of the Internet in eroding the media’s power to define these categories.
It is, in my view, easily one of the most interesting interviews I’ve done, and I recommend it highly. It is roughly 25 minutes in length, and can be heard by clicking PLAY on the recorder below. A transcript is will be posted very shortly.
UPDATE II: The third and final installment of my Los Angeles Timesdiscussion with Jim Antle, regarding the final days of the Bush administration, is here. The second installment is here, and the first one is here.
UPDATE III: I have an article in the new issue of The American Conservative regarding the homogeneity of opinion among our political and media elites when it comes to Israel and U.S. policy towards that country. The article can be read here.
I prepared a quiz to accompany the article, which appears at the bottom of the page of the online version (“Who said what?”), designed to underscore the point. I’m genuinely interested in how well people are able to answer that quiz (it’s on the same page as the article itself). Other articles in this issue on Israel/Gaza include ones by Daniel Levy, Avi Shlaim and John Mearsheimer.