Sunday, February 17, 2008

Lewis Quote Revisited

I have put forward this excellent Lewis quote before
“Why you fool, it’s the educated reader who can be gulled. All our difficulty comes with the others. When did you meet a workman who believes the papers? He takes it for granted that they’re propaganda and skips the leading articles. He buys his paper for the football results and the little paragraphs about girls falling out of windows and corpses found in Mayfair flats. He is our problem. We don’t have to recondition him. But the educated public, the people who read the highbrow weeklies, don’t need reconditioning. They’re all right already. They’ll believe anything.” – fictional character Miss Hardcastle, from That Hideous Strength, by C.S.Lewis
I had thought it prescient, in much the same way his Abolition of Man is, detecting a trend and its full flower long before others had even noticed. Today's journalistic bias, noted by many and amply documented, I took as an unfortunate perversion of objectivity which had started about the time Lewis wrote the above (1942), continuing until the present day and hopefully ending soon as the new media replaced the dinosaurs.

But 66 years is a long haul for any aberration, and Lewis was of course commenting from his knowledge of elite journalism over the previous few decades. It occurred to me today that this bias might be present in every age. Not just a bias, but this particular style. I have long remarked that the European intellectual classes were almost infallibly wrong about political issues throughout the 20th C. Fascism, Socialism, and Communism were the fantasies of philosophers, artists, and dreamers, who could skillfully stir up the masses for brief periods - enough to obtain power.

As for journalisms, this J-School site's history of 20th C journalism is risible, almost a satire on itself. 50% straight reporting, 50% parody from The Onion. But that is a retrospective of current media elite values, not the perspective of those then alive and reading. I shall research this to see what biases earlier journalism, magazine and newspaper, showed.

The arts we already know about.

1 comment:

GM Roper said...

AVI: "I have long remarked that the European intellectual classes were almost infallibly wrong about political issues throughout the 20th C. Fascism, Socialism, and Communism were the fantasies of philosophers, artists, and dreamers, who could skillfully stir up the masses for brief periods - enough to obtain power."

Europe has always been led by such people, going back at least as far as Robespierre. The rable rousing of the leadership gets the folk stirred and then ultimately it comes crashing down around their necks. Then European countries (and it varies from decade to decade) picks themselves up, dust themselves off and wait for the next rable rouser.