Watching some reactions to Stewart/Colbert rally on TV this morning before heading out – couldn’t get the notion out of my head: Most of those on TV who defended themselves against Stewart’s critique – media does not just feed off political conflict, but actively invents it in order to sell its products – basically said that humans love conflicts and therefore that sort of news stories sell. Whether this is true or not, I think, is ultimately complicated by the the following problem: do people like conflict-oriented news because they do so “by nature” or is the continuous barrage of conflict-oriented stories actually producing the interest?
I’m sure that if one of our contemporaries were to see the gladiator fights, most would be disgusted both by the spectacle and the idea as such. And yet clearly people used to enjoy that sort of thing, and still, for example, enjoy violent sports or deliberate killing of animals by humans or by other animals. If reporting violent conflict-oriented stories is what makes for good television, why not go further and actually manufacture conflict where there is none? Why not schedule the opposing rallies and see them fight it out? Wouldn’t it make for a great television and therefore somehow justify media’s attraction to the negative? The defensive idea that media simply gives people what they want is flawed even if it is true that people love conflict and want more of it: just because people love violence does not mean the media needs to give it to them – where’s the responsibility and some sort of moral attitude?