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The medium remains the message




Let's call the tenth anniversary of 9/11 for what it is: an overarching and even vulgar mainstream media event commemorating not only grief and anguish but the last time television was relevant to most of our lives.

Hero dogs of 9/11? Twins of the twin towers? Paul McCartney's 9/11?


I was asked by NPR's fine correspondent Anthea Raymond to gather some thoughts on 9/11 for Patch Echo Park, and those thoughts are here. They are not centered on pain and anguish, but on media, especially television.
To the degree that we shared anything beyond outrage and grief on 9/11, it was this: we were all watching a particular medium, television, which was, like phosphorous, shining most brightly and insistently at the precise moment it was about to die (the phrase is Roland Barthes' on the trick of literature).

From that point forward, television's primary ambition has been to herd us all together—for American Idols and Iron Chefs and Super Bowls and dream houses and other would-be shared national events—even as many, and perhaps most, of us instinctively turn to other kind of media that make us feel less herded, and on more individualized roads.

Watching the tenth anniversary of this awful day unfold as a media event, even on the Internet, does nothing to slake my suspicions about mainstream media in general and television in particular.