It might seem like a rather odd comment to make on a Friday evening. However, I was struck by the ‘differences’ between the media being broadcast in comparison to the media I am simultaneously searching for and watching via the Internet. Of course, this juxtaposition is possible for many reasons that I would not be able to easily surmise. In this particular case, it might be my interest to revisit some discussions I’d seen in the past combined with my present boredom on what was being broadcast that may have proved significant. Usually not a problem, as I rarely watch anything as it is being broadcast.
All the same, it appears to me that what I was finding online (however geeky and academic it would be judged) was a radically different kind of media experience that does not quite whet contemporary appetites. Is it just the visual? Is it the content? Is it the audience who have lost interest? ‘Appetite’ is a rather vague term to use. There are many potential meanings being suggested and designated with the term ‘appetite’. Is it in terms of contemporary audiences simply not wanting to see too much existential questioning from those appearing “before” us in the media? Or, is it that I am suggesting that contemporary audiences have lost a sense of patience, to be troubled, to be made to think, to be given responsibility to feel complicit and required to act?
Just have a look at these videos:
Chomsky debating Foucault
Isaiah Berlin interviewed about his life
Joan Bakewell introduces an interview with Bertrand Russell.
Berlin, Chomsky and Foucault are three thinkers that I rate quite highly. And indeed Bertrand Russell. Yet, where are they in relation to contemporary audiences? Perhaps, in practical terms, they have migrated mostly into a textual form. In books for academics to reference and make grand statements about the nature of their work. For university students to immerse themselves only when they have marks to achieve and professors to impress. Are they no longer part of popular culture? Would it really be out of step to have a Channel 4 program or Prime Minister’s statement from Downing Street reflecting on those thinkers?
Perhaps ultimately it is right to perceive them as quaint ramblers, without any real solutions, and therefore, rightfully ignored or removed from public media. But I worry that we have not reasoned that decision but merely lost interest in self-reflection.