Saturday, 7 April 2012

Weekly Round-Up

Something I’ve been doing over on my fiction blog, I’ve decided to offer a round-up of interesting politics-related links every week. There’s not specific focus, save “politics”. There will undoubtedly be more links to articles about American politics as that is, after all, where my academic and intellectual interests lie.

The Atlantic: “Stuck in the ‘90s: Conservative Media Still Defines Itself Against the MSM” by Conor Friedersdorf [Article]

The article’s stand-first is interesting: “Right-wing outlets often fail to inform their audiences or set an agenda because they're too busy trying to counterbalance liberal coverage.” This actually contradicts an Atlantic feature a few months back that showed, quite clearly, that FOX is very good at setting an agenda, sticking to it, and inserting a particular set of daily talking-points throughout their day’s programming.

Friedersdorf’s article jumps off from an article by Mother Jone’s Kevin Drum, which concludes: “If you inhaled nothing but conservative media, you'd think that African-Americans are endlessly pampered; that racial animosity is simply an invention of the 'victim industry' these days; and that the white working class is the real object of oppression.” Friedersdorf agrees, but says it comes from a different place to what most people assume: “Coverage has less to do with racial attitudes than with how conservative media conceives itself.”

Both print and broadcast conservative media have “self-consciously set out to counterbalance the mainstream media by supplying facts, arguments, and insights absent from its outlets. The impulse was once understandable…it’s an impulse that is more and more counterproductive every year, because it no longer makes sense to imagine an audience that is captive to liberalism in the newspaper and on the nightly news.”

Friedersdorf’s conclusion: “The days of liberal control of mass media is over.”

The Big Idea: “The Boxer Rebellion & the Great Game in China” by David J. Silbey [Article]

A rare moment of cross-over of two of my favourite things, in this article historian Silbey talks about the challenge he faced when writing his new book about the Boxer Rebellion: “The famous maxim says that history is written by the winners. But happens when the other side not only doesn’t write a history, but can’t?”

The responsibility when writing history, Silbey says, “is to get the past right, or get it as right as we can. There is no freedom to fictionalize or to invent things. Instead, there is the iron straitjacket of what has already happened. So what should I do when the past left nothing behind?” In order to get to know his subjects more intimately, but lacking the material to do so, he decided to delve deeper into their world.

A very interesting article.

Foreign Affairs: Game of Thrones as History” by Kelly DeVries & Game of Thrones as Theory” by Charli Carpenter [Articles]

These two articles were an interesting surprise, and I stumbled across them only while checking for to see if there was a new FA issue…

DeVries, a medieval military historian, opens his article with a paragraph guaranteed to make some fantasy fans irritated, so just be aware before clicking through to the article that he isn’t as up on the modern Fantasy genre as he is on Military History. Moving on. The author examines the assertion that Martin’s world is a realistic and accurate representation of Medieval Europe, and comes to the conclusion that it actually isn’t very realistic, and that this is actually a very good thing: “As a historian of the period, I can assure you that the real Middle Ages were very boring – and if Martin’s epic were truly historically accurate, it would be very boring too.”

For those with a little understanding of International Relations theory, I’d also recommend Carpenter’s piece, which tries to look at the novel and HBO series through a Realist lens – while the two media “are laced with Hobbesian metaphors, Machiavellian intrigues, and Carr-like calculations of power”, the author nevertheless finds that “the deeper message is that realism alone is unsatisfying and unsuccessful”.

I should warn you that there are a few spoilers in these two articles.

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