There are two things we know with absolute certainty about the Covid-19 pandemic. Firstly, it will be exploited by politicians and sensationalised by the media. Secondly, anybody who says it’s being exploited by politicians and sensationalised by the media will be denounced as a heretic.
We know that it will be exploited by politicians and sensationalised by the media because that is what they do. Politicians can no more resist the urge to exploit a crisis than a hungry lion can resist the urge to eat that tasty looking chap who took the thorn from its paw. The media can no more resist an opportunity to manipulate public perceptions than a fly can resist a glistening fresh dog turd on the pavement. It’s what they do. It’s how things work.
It stands to reason that for the exploitation and sensationalisation to be fully effective it is essential to silence as far as possible the voices who would make public observations on the matter. It’s not that many or any of these voices are likely to significant;y impede the exploitation or impair the sensationalisation. It’s just that any system set up for the purpose of exploitation and sensationalisation of crises would tend to develop alongside its ability to exploit and sensationalise a capacity for defending its ability to exploit and sensationalise. It’s adaptive.
None of this is controversial. At an intuitive level, people expect politicians to exploit a crisis. People simply assume the media will mediate their perceptions of a crisis. The clue’s in the name. Except when there is a crisis. Then people generally baulk at the idea their politicians would exploit THIS crisis. Largely because the politicians and the media are telling them that THIS crisis is different from all the other crises that have been exploited and sensationalised.
When there is a crisis, people tend to suspend much of their scepticism about the media. Mainly because the media and the politicians are telling them that THIS crisis is not the same as previously sensationalised and exploited crises.
Because THIS crisis is both different and not the same there is no scope for any nuanced opinion about any aspect of THIS crisis. It is exceptional. Therefore, exception is taken to any observation, commentary or analysis which strays from the official line that THIS crisis is exceptional. No observation, comment or analysis may suggest that any aspect of THIS crisis might be less exceptional than the politicians and the media say it is in terms of its exploitation and sensationalisation. To suggest that THIS crisis might be exploited and sensationalised to any degree is to suggest that THIS crisis is similar in some regards to previous crises and therefore not exceptional. Or at least, not as exceptional as the politicians and media say it is.
To suggest that THIS crisis may not be entirely exceptional is to claim that it is not a crisis at all and that people should resume their normal lives – including their customary cynicism about politicians and scepticism about the media. Or that is how the suggestion will be interpreted by those who have an interested in maintaining the perception of THIS crisis as entirely exceptional. Including the politicians who seek to exploit the crisis and the media which want to manipulate public perceptions of the crisis.
And so the wheel turns.
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2 thoughts on “Ouroboros”
You are absolutely right but at the same time i think (hope) there will be a reckoning with the politicians and journalists as a result.
It’s clear that governments were woefully prepared even though there were rehearsals and preparations for exactly this type of event. Before the next one arrives we’d be well served by building institutions and processes to deal with it that kept the politicians well out of the way.
As for the journalists. What a shower of clowns. Faux hysteria and abject laziness combined. All they do is go to the Johns Hopkins dashboard page get the latest numbers and write their story. Sometimes they can’t even get that right. Saw a story yesterday in a reputable paper that claimed the UK has 133,000 cases and 15,000 dead – never entered their head to even look at the numbers twice.
Thank goodness for the internet. It might be cesspit of hype also but you can dig around and get some real information on what is happening, what the risks are, why the risks are important and how long this is likely to go on (I think April is going to be spent indoors).
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Exceptionalism is the basic premise of British attitudes in general. No surprise that it is raised to the power of frenzy in this crisis. This is a similar phenomenon to the demand and expectation that terrorism be condemned before any remark can be made about it – doubting for example the use of the word terrorism.
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