What Would Guy Debord Say?

The first line of Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle reads, “In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation.” Debord’s ideas were the first that came to mind this morning while I was reading through the Washington Post and happened upon an article entitled “FCC Seeks To Rein In Violent TV Shows,” which details the renewed debate over what can only be labeled as television censorship. Using the public interest argument, the FCC has concluded that “based on hundreds of comments from parents, industry officials, academic experts and others…Congress has the authority to regulate ‘excessive violence’ and to extend its reach for the first time into basic-cable TV channels that consumers pay to receive.” The report, commissioned by Congress in 2004, would demand that Congress develop a tenable definition for violence that could make its way through a court review.

Right after reading the Washington Post piece, I read “News Flash: Anything This Graphic Should Never Have a Logo” by Simon Dumenco (in this morning’s AdAge), which made Debord’s words only ring more true to me. Dumenco, writing about the Virginia Tech tragedy, observes that “every news outlet was doing exactly the same thing: marketing the massacre with graphics. We’re all used to — inured to — the graphical dumbing down of major events by news outfits, but last week’s insta-branding was out of control. Particularly at CNN.” All of which has made me wonder that, in a world in which news outlets use the tools employed by the entertainment industry, doesn’t everything merely become a “representation” rather than a “reality”? In other words, hasn’t the blurring of entertainment and television journalism socialized a numbness to the effects of violence? I don’t see how an act of Congress can fix that any time soon.
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