The Media Education Fountation Turns 20 This Fall

A message from Professor Sut Jhally, U Mass Communications professor and founder of the Media Education Foundation:

Dear MEF Friends and Colleagues,

The bottom-line pressures of our commercial media system are in the process of delivering a deathblow to American journalism. The demise of print journalism and the rise of the image have essentially forced the mainstream news media into the entertainment business. And the consequences for public discourse have been devastating. As author Chris Hedges has pointed out, the loss of independent journalism is “impoverishing our civil discourse, leaving us less and less connected to the world around us, plunging larger and larger parts of our society into dark holes and opening up greater opportunities for unchecked corruption, disinformation, and the abuse of power.” By filling the information void created by media consolidation and rampant commercialism with half-truths and ever more fantastic spectacles, corporations have built what Hedges has called an “empire of illusion.”

And in the empire of illusion, reality has met its match.

Climate change, resource and species depletion, domestic financial disaster, and shocks to the global capitalist system bring us face-to-face with what the philosopher Slavoj Zizek has called an “apocalyptic zero-point,” nbut the media-advertising-public-relations complex has been up to the task. In just one of many examples, upwards of 40 percent of Americans now disagree with the overwhelming consensus of international scientists who say that human beings are causing climate change, and that not changing course will be catastrophic, choosing instead to throw their lot in with the paid roster of corporate-sponsored "scientists," "experts," and politicians who have been offering up comforting illusions in the face of inconvenient realities.

The traditional intellectual function of colleges and universities seems more crucial than ever in this environment of mass denial and distraction. The work of teachers, researchers, scholars, and writers in many ways represents a last bulwark against the encroachments of commercial illusion that have spread across the wider culture. When I founded MEF 20 years ago, I couldn’t have known this. My primary goal was to distribute my first film,Dreamworlds, and to add my voice to the many others who were fighting for the legitimacy of popular culture as a field of study. I had no idea at the time just how important media education, media educators, and critical inquiry of this kind would become just two decades later: not only as a means of intellectual self-defense, but as a defense against threats to democracy and civil society.

Stuart Hall seems to me to have gotten it just right when he said that intellectuals have two primary responsibilities: to understand the world as objectively as it can be understood, and to communicate that understanding to the wider public beyond the realm of specialized intellectuals. On our 20th anniversary, with the stakes higher than they have ever been, I couldn’t be more grateful that MEF remains dedicated to exactly those goals.

Best wishes for a productive academic year,

Sut Jhally Founder & Executive Director

Amateur Hour At Camp McCain

Nicolle Wallace and her boss, McCain national press secretary, Brooke Buchanan get into a testy exchange with three St. Louis television journalists. The first man to speak in the video below is Mike Owens of KSDK (NBC). He is complaining that the McCain staff had requested to look at their video camera shot (angle). It seems that the McCain campaign is concerned with how the Senator looks from certain angles. He has scars, an inflamed left cheek from cancer, and a wounded shoulder that is smaller and lower than the other. In fact, from any angle, you can see the Senator's war and disease-related wounds. When the second journalist in the blue shirt, Charles Jaco (of FOX KTVI) backs-up Mr. Owens, the 36-year-old Wallace claims to have worked in the White House for '7 years.' When pressed for details she replies, "It doesn't matter." It turns out that she worked in the White House as the Communications director from January 2001 through June of 2006. How a 20-something, under-qualified individual acquired such a senior external communications position should be self-explanatory. It's all politics.

Her attitude is apparently shared by her boss, McCain national press secretary, Brooke Buchanan. The video ends with a third journalist, Mike O'Connell of KMOV (CBS), asking Buchanan for her name and the name of her employee, Wallace (hey, two Scottish-Americans...wanna bet they are Scots-Irish like their favorite Senator?). What was Buchanan's initial request for her name? "Why does that matter?"

Indeed. It's amateur hour at Camp McCain.

Got to love how Nicolle Wallace folds her arms defensively while identifying herself. Sorry to put you out, Nicolle. For someone who worked 5.5 years in the White House, you sure don't handle pressure well.