By a commentator for Tjen Folket Media.
Originally published October 23, 2020.
In light of the elections in the US, but also a result of general political developments, there has recently been a lot of focus on the media’s power. The media, and especially social media like Facebook, is being portrayed as having great influence on the elections in the US, and on people in general. Meanwhile, it is important to note that this is an image that the media itself has created.
Many have seen the documentary Cambridge Analytica – en trussel mot demokratiet [Cambridge Analytica – A Threat Against Democracy] on NRK. But the documentary offers an incredibly exaggerated picture of how much influence they actually have to sell. The newspaper Klassekampen reports that researchers have revealed that Cambridge Analytica’s influence is vastly overestimated. The company offers targeted advertising—for politicians, among others—in social media. The company claims that they can tailor political advertising and influence voters, but researchers have not been able to find any important effect. We can see this as yet another example of how the media is full of imaginations of their own “great influence” and “enormous responsibility”.
The portrayal of the media’s power is skewed. This is due to the fact that companies and media outlets first and foremost have an economic self-interest in portraying themselves as powerful and secondly that “social existence determines consciousness”, as Marx said. People who belong to a specific occupational group, particularly in the petit bourgeoisie, have a tendency to see themselves as more important than others. They are very concerned with what they themselves are doing. Therefore, the media will often exaggerate the media’s power.
Ideology, culture, ideas, and thoughts—they belong to the superstructure of society. The base is the economy and class relations. The superstructure mirrors the economy, and it does not go the other way such that the superstructure creates the economy. There is, correctly enough, a dialectic interaction in some places, where the superstructure also influences the basis of society, but primarily, the media operates businesses that only reflects the capitalist economy and class struggle. The ideology and politics that are spread from the media comes from “below”, from the system’s structure, and not the other way around.
Today, the media reflects the political struggle between fractions and groups within the bourgeoisie and the petit bourgeoisie. They put forth standpoints from these camps, and they also to some degree reflect the masses’ positions in some questions in order to sell more papers, subscriptions, or advertising. They are companies that sell products, and the conception l that they “form views” and “influence elections” is strongly exaggerated.
Karl Marx showed that the ruling thoughts are the ruler’s thoughts. In a capitalist society, the capitalists’ ideology will dominate. The media is no exception, and our modern society with social media does not turn the world on its head. The media will, by necessity, reflect the bourgeoisie’s—and the petit bourgeoisie’s—thoughts. This is the way it has been ever since the bourgeoisie took power. The revolutoonary movement must therefore build its own media.
Yet, one must not overestimate the power of the media! One must not overestimate the effect of the bourgeoisie’s ideological dominance, the way that intellectuals and the petit bourgeoisie often do. They put the world on its head and become defeatist. Throughout history, the ruling class has used churches, newspapers, schools, and all other ideological institutions to oppress the masses. If anyone believes that this ideological dominance was significantly weaker 100 years ago, they are mistaken. Nonetheless, we know that the masses have risen up. The proletariat has organized itself, struggles, and made revolution. The superstructure, regardless of how reactionary it is, cannot put a stop to the class struggle forever. The pressure will only build up like in a pressure cooker, and the lid will explore when the pressure becomes great enough—again and again, until the whole world is in the hands of the proletariat.
Tjen Folket Media trenger din støtte. Vi får selvsagt ingen pressestøtte eller noen hjelp fra rike kapitalister slik som rasistiske “alternative medier”. All vår støtte kommer fra våre lesere og fra den revolusjonære bevegelsen. Vi er dypt takknemlige for dette. Vi overlever ikke uten, og du kan gjøre ditt bidrag ved å støtte oss med det du kan avse.