Ideology and Media (6.3.09)




An Ideology is a set of ideas that coheres around a set of basic social and political values.


Change those values and you will usually change the Ideology.


An Ideology sets out a way of organising society and politics, and indeed culture based on the core values




Criticises other ideologies because they lack the goals and core values of the preferred ideology.


Historically, the ideological character or tone of anything has been measured by the degree to which it reflects core social or political values that belong to the great ideologies such as liberalism, conservatism, Marxism, socialism etc.


So if say a gardening column seems to bang on about the need for order and tidyness, we might  (perhaps jokingly) say that the article ‘so conservative’ today..or even ‘fascist’!


Why?…because the desire for maintaining order and control in social and political terms is a key value in conservative ideology. But an extreme form of desiring order and control is to be found in fascism.


Of course it is nonsense really, to talk about a gardening column being ideological in content…but you may see how we could make a silly joke about this column having an ideological tone to it.


(If the gardening column recommends that you ‘just letting you garden grow free without planning’ then you might, again in jokey mood, suggest the gardening writer was an liberal or even an anarchist…


Why…because absence of order and control are key values in liberal and anarchist ideologies.


So what does this have to do with Media?


Simple answer: media it is said, helps CIRCULATE, DISTRIBUTE, ENCOURAGE THE ADOPTION OF…


Ideological values and outlooks.


In other words:

Media is an agency of ideology. It carries it.


‘The Guardian’ is said to ‘carry’ left-liberal values – a mixture of beliefs/values that want social equality and personal freedom.


‘The Telegraph’ is said to be a conservative paper because it supports the maintenance of traditional authority & social order e.g. strong policing policies and respect for figures of authority such as the Church and religion etc.


Channel 4 was set up to do experimental programmes and programmes for minorities not previously served. It did progs that were radical – that covered avant-garde arts, culture and ideas and thus it got a reputation being anti-conservative, and for being liberal if not radical or anarchist in character.


But ideology is also about creating a system of values and ideas that present a world as inevitable.


Marx through to the neo-marxist Adorno argued that (any) ideology was in essence (i.e. the theory of Ideology) a set of values that were ingrained and reflected a set of values of a particular character.


e.g. the school room that set desk in rows and had a teacher on a higher level reflected the values of order and authority


and these ideas would be captured in other circumstance as well – at home: parent maintained order; respect for church authority; the media showing respect for those in authority etc etc.


Thus you may see that a whole conservative outlook could be spread across a society and would form the psychological outlook and expectation on most of the populace.


Culturally much of society discourages us from liking avant-garde culture – weird left-field experimental music and abstract art…because it is anti-order – it upsets the ‘normal’ way of seeing things – it gets you to think and question..and that ends up challenging authority.


Adorn especially thought this - he saw that modern classical music  in its strange sounds challenged the established forms of thought and experience. It thus upset ‘bourgeois society’ – it acted as a point of criticism.


Thus the subtle spread of ideology via normal routines of life – where the values are embedded in ways of doing things and everyday life – it’s just what we do around  here????


is precisely how  ideology covers up its own tracks. It job is NOT be noticed working. It inculcates certain social, moral, cultural, political values whilst most people are happy to say: ‘This is just normal life’…no there’s no ideology...I don’t see it…’


To show up just how ideology works is to do

Ideology Critique.


And that is at the heart of Critical Theory – the ideas of the Frankfurt school that includes people like Adorno,  Horkheimer, and Marcuse.


They particularly showed how US society manufactured at all kinds of levels an image of individual freedom and choosing ones way of life whilst actually manufacturing whole patterns of conformity to certain social and moral values…Even in Astrology columns! e.g. “the stars are uneasy today, be careful, don’t upset your manager; the stars are in an angry mood” (see Adorno’s essay “The Stars down to earth”)


Filsm and TV were particularly guilty of enabling the spread of certain kinds of ‘decent wholesome American values’.