Conversation With
Christophe Ventura
Academic, France

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What image of the working classes in France is the media spreading?

In a general sense, the working classes are not being represented. There is an effort to make popular sectors invisible in the whole mass media landscape. Particularly I'm thinking of cultural or entertainment tv, also in the theater written press. The grass roots people that really exist, the majorities, don’t exist at all for them. They are made invisible. You would never see on tv any movies or series presenting grassroots people’s way of living in a positive way, or showing their traditions, professions or cultural values. And when they do show these, it’s just to scorn them, to make negative jokes that feed into bourgeois stereotypes. They only portray poor people as thieves, always with negative behavior, lacking mental concentration, always related to alcohol and excesses. As we say in French, is the image of a low life character, a violent, macho, racist; or the image of a stupid person with some kind of inferior intelligence; people allegedly incapable of understanding the “happy complexity” of a world they are opposing in the worst way, withdrawing into themselves and finally being responsible for all the hate in society. This is how mass media portray grassroots people.

I think it’s a way to prevent the very existence of a popular awareness, or as Marx said, a class consciousness. Their idea is to build a system of representations to prevent a part of society from behaving like a collective subject, with their own common interests which they struggle for. This is the conscious or unconscious strategy of the media and the journalists, who in the end share this view of a world without working classes.

 

What is the mass media role?

Mass media act as a real political party, not only in France but also in Europe and in the whole world. As is well known, this is evident when it comes to Latin America. Mass media are a political party. In a general sense, they set the line that every other political actor will follow. There is a political strategy, a direct attack from mass media against all those who try to give the grassroots people dignity and make them protagonists.  We can find another example in the cultural and entertainment media, they are important as well because that is where many people get their image of society from. I’m talking about TV series and entertainment shows. The disrespect for the common people is spread through all the stereotypes in those popular shows. They are always about unlikeable, vicious characters, who are always traitors and thieves, and this is all related to the working classes.

 

Is the media omnipotent?

Despite a horrible media campaign, despite a broad alliance, an unholy alliance, between mass media and French political elites, in particular the social-democrats, and also a sector of the intelligentsia, despite everything, their alliance blew up, because there was a wave of popular opposition, that was well informed and able to choose consciously an alternative to the dangers in the project they were trying to impose. So we can see how media executives, political elites and intellectuals fear the working classes, because they know they have alternative ways to find information. The mass media is not the only way to spread information, fortunately. That is also a misrepresentation designed by intellectuals and journalists. Individuals and working class members are informed on how the world is going because they are suffering the material and concrete consequences in their daily social realities. Social living contains information. That’s the way individuals confront the reality of the complex world they supposedly don’t understand. In the concrete field, when you see the public post office in your town is closing, or that every service that used to be public is becoming concentrated in private hands, that is when you can the logic of globalization, because it affects the life of your cousin or your aunt, your brother, your sister or your sister in law. All those issues are information sources. People get information from their social lives. And that’s out of the media's reach and it always will be. From this point of view the media is just a giant with clay feet.

 

What do you think about The MediuM?

We ourselves will always be The MediuM, we, you.  It is everybody who looks and is interested in this. They have a big responsibility because it’s they who are going to see, it’s they who will be seen and who can make things seen. Everyone is called to participate in this kind of project.

 

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