Friday, September 21, 2007

What makes ideas fit


"The ecosystem of socialism, seen through the material forms in which its principles were transmitted—books, newspapers, manifestos—and the parties, movements, schools and men who were its bearers. From Babeuf to Marx to Mao, the passage of printed ideas, and their inundation by images..."

The relative success of different ideas today may have something to do with a 'survival of the fittest'-sort battle of ideas - where the best ideas win. But one can't ignore is the environment in which ideas "compete" - and how the means of production and dissemination of ideas help determine which ideas prevail. In the age of television, the only ideas that have a chance of competing are those likely to win over the owners of a production studio and television station. Ain't no printing press gonna cut it no more.

Contra Debray, it's not something magical - an essence - in television that inevitably leads to the result of dumb, functionally illiterate populations. Socialists just need to amass a boatload of cash, win a hostile takeover of News Corp, radically restructure it, and use another boatload of cash to run a company that'll probably hemorrhage money; it's expensive to use television to educate, and the returns don't appear on any but a metaphorical balance sheet.

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