Ulus Baker

Information, marketing, news, advertisement, communication, campaign, public opinion… First of all, it is worth remembering that the media itself has included these words in our daily life, in our economic-political and social rhetoric. The general orientation is the admiration for the absoluteness of the “positive” meaning attributed to each of these words. We have to note that this admiration of our media to its power, which is extremely poor in ethics and thought, is one of the characteristics of an almost universalized ideology that we can call “communication intoxication”. These concepts have such unquestionable positive content that it is necessary to take some dangers even to start thinking about them. For example, in today’s world, the construction and transmission of “thought” seems to be under the monopoly of a new social type that we call “marketer” and “manager”. It can be observed that, especially in the last decade, Turkey has started to get into this phase. Trying to deal with this situation with generalizations such as “communication age”, “information society” would be to fall into the trap of communication intoxication: If we, nowadays, where the gap between communication technologies and the concept of communication, philosophy and morality is deepening and widening, cannot think of what the German thinker Walter Benjamin could think of decades ago, we can easily begin to notice the effect of this drunkenness.

Now I would like to draw attention to one effect of this drunkenness that I see most important, its consequence: The media causes us to lose our “events”. Therefore our thinking ability… Because every thought, although itself is an “event”, has to be about events. The media, on the other hand, gives us events that are “individualized”, separated from each other, that we cannot think about: The sequence of scandals one after another dictates an abstract, imaginary and thoughtless understanding of the world with the two most fundamental techniques of the media — meaning the techniques of persistence and repeat: while the first one is the way of processing an event raised on the agenda into people’s heads with a tedious repetition, the second one, by mobilizing all channels of mass communication, keeps delivering the same event with different types of messages, such as in an informational, formal, political, or emotional way. I think that the most important result of this situation is not to affect minds through disinformation, but to “make things unthinkable” and make them what I can call monotonous. We now need a new concept of “event” formed by concrete human thought, which should be anti-media, that is non-mediatic. The mediatic event glows and burns out, like a flash in the pan. But most importantly, events cannot be linked to each other except through the mechanisms that I call “repetition” and “persistence”. The result is an intense feeling of “fuming”, a state of paralysis and boredom, whose psychological effects can be felt at any moment. Anti-media thought should rethink what an “event” is and be able to reconstruct the event as an event. I think this is the main duty of the intellectual in the information and communication society.

So how can the difficulties in reconstructing the mediatic “event” be overcome? Anti-media efforts, for example, in most places correspond to efforts to create “counter-media”, which, in a way, is not very voiced these days. This protest, raised against the media’s control of information, is mostly based on voicing “events” and “facts” that the dominant media do not bring to the agenda. In this way, those who have lost their voices and are in a sense excommunicated, find the chance to express themselves. But their conception of the “event” must be different; if you wish I can give a concrete example: Contrary to what the dominant media and officials claim, systematic, institutionalized torture may have taken place in a country. Many things that will spoil the game of this disinformation can be brought to public opinion by anti-media, alternative media etc. to the extent that legal pressure and threats will allow. From the reports of Amnesty International to the print media, they can be cited as cases of “torture incidents” in daily newspapers columns. But whatever you do, you cannot tell by these that the “incident of torture” exists, especially that it is systematic and institutional. Any police officer or Ministry of Internal Affairs official will come out and say with great ease that there is no systematic torture, that “individual incidents” have occurred, but that “those responsible will be subject to immediate prosecution”. Here is where the problematic side of the media model is revealed: You can collect as many torture cases as you want. But you cannot show that torture is systematic this way. It is difficult to understand and describe the “event”:

The question should be put this way: Whenever you are taken by the police, interrogated, you will be tortured, have been and are being tortured… This is the real formula of “event”. You may as well say this: Even if a single person is tortured, torture exists there: as an “event”. Or again: Even if someone has not been tortured, torture still exists - as an event, next to us, near us… This is never the legitimization of “it came like this, it goes like this” — this sentence is rather an expression of boredom that is the direct result of the persistence of the media model “event”. Through the event you can grasp the “single moment”, universality, in terms of its eternal and eternal significance.

So how can this method of “eventization” be applied, which will reopen the fields of thinking in the modern world under the domination of the media? Not using the media is never a solution for me. Putting aside that the mass media is mobilizing irresistible forces, they are never things from which we can escape. I am not against educational, informative, recreational, even pornographic uses of these tools. I am not in a position to look down on the world anyway. The only thing I can say is that the value of the “intellectual event” must be acknowledged alongside the mediatic “event”.

I guess someone might say that the power of the “intellectuality” I have mentioned is now very limited in the face of the media, or that my conception of “thinking through events” is rather volatile. But “thinking” as I understand it is our, as individuals or groups, perspective of opening up to the world. Thought is always an optic, a perspective. We know that the media functions as a field of ideology. On the other hand, Marx said, “A peasant hut is thought differently than in a palace.” Where can we find the foundations of ideology theory in this phrase that describes a simple phenomenon? If a peasant thinks like a courtier, that is, if “thinking like a courtier” spreads to the whole society, it means we are faced with ideology. Thinking like a peasant turns the peasant’s life perspective into an intellectual one. Thought is only challenged by thought. In other words, the thought that homogenises and identifies the thought in all its perspectives (this is ideology) can be challenged with a concrete idea based on perspective. We can easily recognize that the media itself is the almost superhuman mechanism that ensures this homogenization, the sameness of truth everywhere and identity with itself. Thus, events in thought should appear as “expressions of perspectives.”

So, where lies the secret of dealing with mediatic discourse? The media does not produce “thought” and “understanding” nor does it produce “events”: At best it presents them — it transforms data into information, puts the idea to the market. However, thought establishes the relations between ideas in a completely different order. The media show us the following “educational” warnings: “Don’t be a traffic monster, accidents cause tens of thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries.” Thinking should turn events around this logical chain of cause and effect. As the thinker Ernst Jünger said, “It is an optical error to think that all these injuries are caused by accidents, it is a delusion; on the contrary, the accidents that happen to us come from the fact that we are crippled even when the world is still in rusheim.” Thus, the thought can realize that the causes of disabilities are not simply accidents, that the causes of accidents are not simply carelessness and negligence, but that all these causes and consequences chain are actually determined in another area. In this world where we are forced to live, we are victims, we are disabled: Traffic is an event of this world. Traffic is a dangerous world in which we were born; Accidents… always happen to us there. Eventization also provides a chain of links between ideas in all its simplicity and understandability. For example, the connections between traffic and metropolitan life, wild market capitalism: While individual and unconnected warnings of the media against “occupational accidents” in the name of “forming public opinion” can only earn an indifferent ear, the intellectual connection between ideas can easily see that the brutal world of capitalism, like the world of traffic, the way business is organized there, is the real cause of occupational accidents. And the connection between wild capitalism and wild traffic, where speed and control are equally required: time is money, thus speed is money too…

Media’s Misery

It is very easy to show the difference of the Turkish media against the Western media with an easy research that anyone can do with the newspapers they currently have, which will illustrate, for instance, how the Turkish press system works: The object that we call a newspaper has a structure, a form of presentation of audio-visual material. For example, important news of the day, economy-finance page, culture page, sports and so on. Moreover, note how parallel this hierarchy of pages is with the hierarchy of, for example, state, government ministries and directorates. To put it briefly, the newspaper form clearly echoes a state form, with the exception of the private press devoted to certain topics and the boulevard newspapers: Business page, police news page, sports page, foreign news service etc… Rely on this “common form” and sort and categorize the major newspapers of that day in hierarchical order, starting from the subheadings, from the first page to the last page, from the front page news to the sports news. It is not difficult to notice how much diversity there is in the material, that is, from the type of news to the order of importance attributed to it. How the most important news for one newspaper becomes a half-column news for another is the most important proof that there is no real understanding of “journalism” in the Turkish press.

Second, it is greatly naive to say that the media is a tool or medium for public debates, news transmission (“the truths”, as the Star newspaper calls it) and information circulation. Rather, the media has taken it upon itself to tell us what to think and accept and what not to think. It is clear that this “manipulative”, one-way communication in today’s Turkey has gained power in a much more problematic way than in Western media. Look at television programs such as Siyaset Meydanı: In these, we see that, rather than a “public debate”, a crude laundering-defamation activity is carried out on a certain number of issues brought up by the media. Whatever freedom of speech someone has in the outside world, they have the same freedom during the program. In other words, the politician pushes their demagogy, the academician shows their ineffective arrogance and the ones who are called to represent the “people”, which we can call the “voices of the street”, also freely carry out a bombardment of suppressed demands (never taken into account), requests, and protests. It is also evident that there is no contradiction between private or state-owned media outlets in this respect. Today, it is a matter of fact that a “good program” means the most-watched, best-seller — in accordance with today’s “market ideology” — and that it does not mean anything else and does not bow to any other criteria. Generally speaking, the media in Turkey does not have the chance to create a free “public space” that the West once (in the Age of Enlightenment and around the French Revolution) has developed but over time institutions, civil and political organizations felt obliged to maintain as they lost it among journalism that has become a professional profession and the mechanisms of social power. The media industry that forms the background of modern communication technologies, which can eliminate a formation in the West, has the power to do even more so in a “developing” country like Turkey.

So, doesn’t the media in Turkey have any chance that contains “positivity”? Maybe, first of all, there is a need for a “media ethics”. I do not see this ethics as possible through a “pluralism” that will take place through the mediaization and placement of “liberal” ideology, Islamic “morality” or “socialist” thought. This ethics should be more specific to the media’s own practice… The ethics in question is not, for example, the so-called “politically correct” attitude that there is in the USA. On the contrary, it would be ruthless to think, or even ask, that the media of a society where the freedom to “swear” can be exercised unlimitedly could behave otherwise. The world has a dense literature laden with “profanity”: Since Copernicus, the world of modern art has been stretched by the poles, and there has been a great divergence between the artist and the work, the design and the object. Finding the culmination of this divergence in art subject to mass communication is probably not a great discovery fifty years after Benjamin’s influential writings. So, a real anti-media will bring this tension, this divergence either to its extreme points (If the media is reporting fake news, it will move its audience collectively to a “fake” world, a world of literature, fabrication) or — if it can succeed — will try to eliminate it. The latter is a work of thought, which can be carried out on a route that I call “eventualization”.

Democracy and Communication

There is a link between democracy and communication that the most powerful European thinkers (such as Jürgen Habermas and Karl Otto Apel) are trying to establish, but warnings are fused on every strand. I think the question of the media’s contribution to the democratization of society does not have a clear meaning in itself. First of all, the likelihood of such a contribution presupposes a pre-democratization of the media itself. Otherwise, it can be said that even totalitarianism has “ideal communication” mechanisms: As Hobbes said, “to believe that you are free, silently repeat your ruler’s speech with your lips without making a sound” — Democratic or not, here is the general formula of the “communication” understanding of the media. “Ideal communication”, in which the reduction of individual differences to nothing is assumed as an implicit goal, allows neither the distribution of information and knowledge, nor the state of “allowing the formation of free thought” that every “ideal” democratic society has to assume. On the contrary, democratic societies as they evolved from the 18th century to the present increasingly assume disciplinary and supervisory modes of organization. In other words, there is a highly mechanical disciplinary assumption in the birth of modern democracy: To have modern rights, a special docility that traditional societies never had, is through being trained in this direction. Otherwise, the political powers do not recognize these rights for the sake of anyone. Modern freedoms of “communication”, including the “freedom of information” that comes with the globalization of the world, this time assume and aim for an “audit society” provided by information dissemination mechanisms.

The “intoxication” brought by the latest technologies in the field of communication appears to be a great danger not only from the point of view of the future of the human race, but also of its past. I even think this second one is a bigger danger. Just as Nazism established a “totalitarian” language as a general social/mass control mechanism and thus fulfilled a “mythological” language of a certain kind of “historical consciousness” of the 19th century, the language of the media also has the effect of losing the past. Doctor Goebbels, one of the most interesting personalities of Nazism, was the father and supporter of what we call “audio-visual” communication and propaganda techniques: He saw the superiority of Nazi propaganda over its rivals as a direct result of its rivals’ persistence in using a “cognitive” language, “written” media techniques that appealed to the consciousness, which still presupposed the 19th century public sphere. Everything is built on the media’s audio-visual language inhibiting the activity of “thinking”.

Although there are countless expectations in the arsenal of modern communication technologies to end an ongoing, or at least since Nazism, struggle between “thinking” and “communication”, the “control society”, which some call the “information society” and which we are just entering (which we, as Turkey, are eager to enter with great enthusiasm and imprudence), is a candidate to drown all these expectations in a sea of pessimism. Especially in a country with a broken democracy like Turkey, media control can institutionalize an extremely dangerous inequality in the exchange of information.


Original article.