"Pathologies of political communication" *

(…) The kind of political communication we know from our so-called media society goes against the grain of the normative requirements of deliberative politics. (…) The independence of a self-regulated media system and the right kind of feedback between mediated political communication and civil society – can serve as diviners for the discovery of specific causes for existing lacks of legitimacy.

(…) We must distinguish between an incomplete differentiation of the media system from its environments on the one hand and a temporary interference with the independence of a media system that has already reached the level of self-regulation, on the other. The state monopoly which public broadcasting enjoyed in Italy during the first three decades of the post-War period is a prime example for the entanglement of electronic media in the political system. During a period when any change of government between the ruling Christian Democrats and the Communist opposition was blocked, each of the major parties enjoyed the privilege of recruiting the personnel for one of three public TV-channels. This pattern granted a certain degree of pluralism, but certainly did not ensure independence of professional programming. One consequence of this incomplete differentiation of mediated communication from the core of the political system was that public broadcasting indulged in a kind of paternalism, as if immature citizens needed due political instruction from on high [C. Padovani: A Fatal Attraction. Public Television and Politics in Italy, (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005), 1-12 ]. (…)

Private TV and print media are commercial enterprises like any other. However, here owners can use their economic clout as a switch to immediately convert media power into public influence and political pressure. Alongside media tycoons such as Rupert Murdoch or Ted Turner, Silvio Berlusconi is an especially infamous example. He first exploited the legal opportunities just described for political self-promotion, and then after taking over the reins of government used his media empire to back dubious legislation in support of the consolidation of his private fortunes and political assets. In the course of this adventure, Berlusconi even succeeded in changing the media culture of his country, shifting it from a predominance of political education to an emphasis on marketing of depoliticized entertainment - “a mixture of films and telefilms, quiz and variety shows, cartoons and sports, with football pre-eminent in this latter category” [P. Ginsborg, Silvio Berlusconi .- Television, Power and Patrimony, (Verso), London, 2004, 40].

The other condition concerns the feedback between a self-regulating media system and a responsive civil society. The political public sphere needs input from citizens who give voice to society’s problems and respond to the issues articulated in elite discourse. There are two major causes for a systematic lack of this kind of feedback loop. Social deprivation and cultural exclusion of citizens explain the selective access to and uneven participation in mediated communication, whereas the colonization of the public sphere by market imperatives leads to a peculiar paralysis of civil society. (...)

(…) It is sociological common-sense that the interest in public affairs and the use of the political media largely correlate with social status and cultural background (S. Verba et al., Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics, (Harvard UP), Cambridge, 1995; Delli Carpini (2004), 404 ff. ). This set of data can be interpreted as indicating the inadequate functional differentiation of the political public sphere from the class-structure of civil society. In the course of the last few decades, however, the ties to ascriptive social and cultural origins have been loosening (Dalton (2006), 172 ff., 150 ff., 219ff.).The shift towards “issue-voting” reveals the growing impact of public discourse on voting patterns and, more generally, of public discourse on the formation of “issue publics”. While a larger number of people tend to take an interest in a larger number of issues, the overlap of issue publics may even serve to counter trends of fragmentation (Dalton (2006), 121f., 206 ff ).

In spite of an inclusion of ever more citizens in the flows of mass communication, a comparison of recent studies arrives at an ambivalent, if not outright pessimistic conclusion about the kind of impact mass-communications has on the involvement of citizens in politics [Delli Carpini (2004) , 420 ff.]. Several findings in the United States support the “video-malaise” hypothesis according to which people who more extensively use the electronic media, and consider them an important source of information, have a lower level of trust in politics and are more likely to take a cynical attitude towards politics as a consequence [T.-T. Lee, “Media effects on political disengagement revisited,” in: J&MC Quarterly, vol. 82 (Summer, 2005), 416-433, here 421 ff. ]. If, however, reliance on radio and TV fosters feelings of powerlessness, apathy and indifference, we should not seek the explanation in the paralyzed state of civil society, but in the content and formats of a degenerating kind of political communication itself. The data I have mentioned suggest that the very mode of mediated communication contributes independently to a diffuse alienation of citizens from politics [C. Boggs, “The great retreat: Decline of the public sphere in late twentieth-century America,” in: Theory and Society, 26 (1997), 741-780 ].

With regard to the colonization of the public sphere by market imperatives, what I have in mind here is simply the redefinition of politics in market categories. The rise of autonomous art and an independent political press since the late 18th century is a case in point as it proves that the commercial organization and distribution of intellectual products do not necessarily induce the commodification of both the content and the modes of reception. Under the pressure of shareholders who thirst for higher revenues, it is the intrusion of the functional imperatives of the market economy into the “internal logic” of the production and presentation of messages that leads to the covert displacement of one category of communication by another: Issues of political discourse become assimilated into and absorbed by the modes and contents of entertainment. Besides personalization, the dramatization of events, the simplification of complex matters, and the vivid polarization of conflicts promotes civic privatism and a mood of anti-politics.

The growing status of candidate images explains the pattern of candidate-centered electoral politics [Dalton (2006), 215: “Candidates’ images can be seen as commodities packaged by image makers who sway the pub-lic by emphasizing traits with special appeal to the voters”]. The trend towards issue voting goes hand in hand with the trend towards candidate-based voting to the extent that the latter does not already predominate. The personalization of politics is bolstered by the commodification of programs. Private radio and TV -stations, which operate under the budget constraints of extensive advertising, are pioneering in this field. Though public broadcasting stations still maintain a different programming structure, they are in the process of adapting to or adopting the model of their private competitors [Jarren & Donges (2006), 163, 348 ff. ]. Some authors consider the political journalism to which we are accustomed as a model that is being phased out [K. Hickethier, “Der politische Blick im Dispositiv Fernsehen,” in: Weisbrod (2003), 79-96 ]. Its loss would rob us of the centerpiece of deliberative politics.

* Citações do texto de Jürgen Habermas “Political Communication in Media Society – Does Democracy still enjoy an epistemic dimension? The impact of normative theory on empirical research”, Communication Theory, 16 (2006). (destaques nossos)

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Anonymous Anónimo said...

Cara Direcção do Jornal de Noticias SA

Tem sido constatado que frequentemente os comentários enviados para a secção "Desabafe Connosco" por parte de emigrantes portugueses residentes nos EUA tem sido bloqueados.

Embora não possa responder pelo conteudo das mensagens dos restantes participantes que se têm queixado, posso afirmar que nenhuma das mensagens que tentei enviar iriam contra as normas presentes no referido forum.

Aliás as mensagens enviadas e não publicadas podem ser observadas no seguinte local: http://luso-americano.blogs.sapo.pt/

Como podem verificar não são mensagens que contenham insultos ou palavões susceptiveis de ferir susceptibilidades.

Em contra partida vê-se constantemente a publicação de mensagens que promovem um outro local que esse sim é useiro e abuseiro no insulto, difamação de parte dos participantes. E muitas de outras são igualmente insultuosas para certos participantes, mas mesmo assim publicadas.

As perguntas que coloco são as seguintes.

1º - Que conceito editorial e de publicação têm os elementos que controlam as publicações no referido espaço?

2ª - Que poderão achar todos os elementos que vêem os seus comentarios negados, sem justificação para tal?

3ª - Será o JN um orgão de comunicação Social que baseia a sua conducta na censura dos seus participantes?

4º - Será que o JN vê os emigrantes portugueses como direitos inferiores aos restantes portugueses?

5º - Porque razão é acentuadamente mais dificil durante o Fim de Semana que os emigrantes portugueses vejam os seus textos publicados.

6º - É ou não o JN um orgão de comunicação Social isento e que fornece igualdade de tratamente a todos os que o visitam desde que não vão contra as normas publicadas no referido espaço?

Aguardo o mais breve possivel um esclarecimento,

entretanto este texto será publicado na integra em outros locais, incluindo o acima referido de forma a que seja do conhecimento geral o tratamento diferenciado que o JN fornece aos seus leitores e participantes.

12:12 da manhã  

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