Birthing hegemonies: Media surpluses and false consciousness

WE feel it every day. We dread the moments each day. The cause of this anxiety is not the real world, that which we are in physically. We are not always anymore in a sensual universe where tactility rules. An online space has taken over our lives, conflating consciousness whether by class or through individuals.

Even as I write this, I am conscious and alert how I am viewing all the questions and doubts from my own perspective—an intellectual, by any traditional definition (one who works on constructs, theories and historicity), an academic (schooled beyond the average number of years needed for one to able to use educational attainment for a wage-earning job), and a writer (using a language that is not anymore apprehended by the majority of the population in this country).

I am writing this column even as I wonder why there seems to be out there a division of readers and viewers: on one side, those who read books, cite statistics, and participate in discussions to clarify whether their stand is healthy enough to withstand doubts and with this population are those who have the capacity to listen to those who they accept—and respect—to be in the know; on the other side are those who do not believe in what this other group deems as the proper, testable and vetted source of truths and ideas.

Somewhere in that presentation is a bias. Let us give this “bias” another term and call it “framework.” I am assuming that my tests for truths, which I share with the first group, have long been validated and therefore are ways of allowing me to navigate skewed views until I reach a healthy proportion of correctness and precision in my perception of reality. In this class (I assume those who read this paper) individuals appreciate a near rigid approach to apprehending life, which to others is merely lived.

But is life merely lived? Or is life needing to be sufficiently questioned?

Where does media locate itself in this new arena of knowledge-building and consciousness?

In a paper, From Media as the Producer of False Consciousness to Ecological Media, by Necla Odyakmaz Acara and Sebnem Caglara, these quotes appear to be relevant to my questions: “Media, which is used by the capitalist system for social control, is a tool that enables the establishment and sustainability of hegemony of productive forces. Hegemony is compulsory and it has to function rigidly, because social experiences of secondary classes always contradict with the picture drawn by dominant ideologies both for themselves and for social relationships. In other words, the dominant ideology constantly confronts with resilience, which it has to overcome in order to obtain people’s consent for the social order it is trying to cultivate.”

When we see the other groups of people confronting our truths by professing their own versions of truth, which are based on sources we never imagine would one day be “hegemonic” as well, are we faced with this kind of “resilience?”

The paper continues: “This resilience may be broken, yet it can never be completely destroyed. For this reason, victory of the hegemony and the consent it obtains are inevitably unstable; therefore, hegemony has to be continuously re-gained and re-negotiated. The task of media is to keep the dominant ideology alive and to smooth the extreme points of this resilience within the society.”

This leaves us with the other media—that cluster of data birthed by what we now lump under social media. Two apps come into mind: Twitter and TikTok. Both are easy to deal and work with. One does not need a long attention span to use them and, for that matter, other existing applications online.

With Twitter, you can tweet but there is a 280-character limit. One needs to develop skills on what earlier communications specialists call “soundbytes.” Without the ability to be succinct and smartly succinct, there is a danger of short-circuiting information. One can post a note and leave it incomplete just to be able to use the application.

Then there is TikTok. While Twitter is attributed to Americans, TikTok is owned by the Chinese company, ByteDance. TikTok is described as “the destination for short-form videos” that are “exciting, spontaneous and genuine.” There are other new forms of expressions but the fact is these two have become the dominant sources of ideas. Truths do not anymore rely on the conceptual element because the images one sees flashing with such grace, speed, and freshness—all indicators of seductive spontaneity—become the truths for another population.

In the same paper by Acara and Caglara, Noah Chomsky is quoted as saying: “Media serves not for public interest, but for the interests of the state and the capital. Media’s screen for attack and deception is designed to imprison and hypnotize the possible largest section of the people. Only at this time, attention of this section can be sold to advertisers for its scrap value and slogans may become useless things which can be reversed by crazy images.”

Then we are left with the great divide: we, on one side, who swear allegiance to universities whose concepts date back to European Middle Ages, who would die for theories during online debates, include here those who furtively check the Wikipedia to boost one’s presentation of the self in the Internet, and those, on the other end, who find joy in a dance mocking the gender of a candidate, subscribing to a short film crudely speculating on how interminable hours of work can be dumb in a place where labor value is forever repressed to create capital.

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Image credits: Jimbo Albano

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