The chaos machine

Brian McNair, a UK journalism prof, writes a very nice essay in Media Guardian today about the chaos the internet, technology, and communications cause, for bad and good.

Events in one part of the world feed back instantly into the politics of another, and linear, machine models of top-down cultural control no longer explain very much….

From the offices of News Corp to the boardrooms of the BBC, the age of top-down, elite-controlled media is passing, replaced by a decentralised global infosphere of unprecedented accessibility and diversity….

The grounds for optimism in this are that cultural chaos, like chaos in nature, can be both destructive and creative. On the one hand, the networked nature of globalised news culture makes it easier than ever before to terrorise the planet….

Where there is chaos and disorder, however, there is also the prospect of evolution and progressive change. If globalised media culture provides the jihadists with a weapon to demoralise the enemy and mobilise support, it also spreads the very ideas and values which inspire their rage. Arab Big Brother provoked riots in Bahrain because it exposed TV audiences in the Middle East to an alternative model of gender relations….

All we can do is to stand firm against authoritarianisms of every hue, and in defence of the freedoms we value, without apology or qualification. In doing so we recognise that the defining struggle of our time is not a war on terror, but a culture war, in which the globalised media are more powerful weapons than bombs and bullets. Its outcome will determine the shape of the 21st century.

McNair has a book out today — Cultural Chaos — that I’ve been trying to find in the stores in London.

  • Vermont Neighbor

    This is a fascinating topic, now that we’re in the age of news delivery as news.

    Communities & neighborhoods have always enjoyed a sense of being walled off and clubby; from the early neighborhoods of NY and Boston to today’s exclusive gated communities. Still, we are fascinated to peek over the backyard fence at what the neighbors are doing on their blog.

  • mark singer

    Dream on, I’ll take smart bombs and bullets fired by highly trained armed forces as the primary answer to global terrorism…The new horizontal media can report the results afterward…

  • Glyn

    Phone the London Review of Books bookshop near the British Museum (020 7269 9030). Otherwise the biggest bookstore in Europe is Waterstones by Piccadilly Circus – good view of the city from the top floor as well.