[Air-l] Re: new media and shock

Paula pmg at gmx.co.uk
Tue Jul 12 01:53:35 PDT 2005

Hi Steph,

Agree that sensationalisation and emotionalisation of this kind of event 
(along with "stranger danger", internet scares, etc etc etc) are playing 
into the hands of manipulative mechanisms to achieve social and 
political control. Think Adam Curtiz' documentary "The Power of 
Nightmares" is really worth watching if you can get it (it's up on 
usenet sometimes). I think Curtiz' analysis - that USA regimes since the 
fall of the Berlin Wall have been setting up "Islamic" terrorism as the 
new bogie-man in order to tighten its grip on the North American psyche 
is a valid one. I'm not sure if you're referring to Londoners as being 
traumatised by this event/

I didn't get the impression that Londoners were anywhere near 
traumatised by the latest bombing. Britain is a post-colonial nation and 
has had a very long time to digest the bitter pill that messing 
violently in other people's affairs will usually end in some sort of 
decentred retaliation eventually. Any loss of life is tragic, of course, 
but in comparison with conditions in any number of countries from Burma 
to Congo I think that most people can see that we don't have too much to 
complain about. I think most of us can also "do the math" that in a city 
of 7.5 million people, your chance of being in the wrong place at the 
wrong time in a bombing claiming 38 lives is statistically minute and 
utterly negligible in comparison with your risk of cancer or car accident.

The bomb on the underground system is a little freaky as going down 
underground is always mildly unpleasant. But we've got pretty 
well-trained minds on the whole . . .

I suspect that most of the paranoia effect will actually be in "middle 
England" which is masochistic enough to read right-wing tabloid newspapers!


Stephanie Kent wrote:

> Hi all - I generally just lurk, but I was struck by a discontinuity in 
> discussion last Thursday and think it bears on this question of 
> becoming inured to shock. There were 6 posts on "London...the internet 
> accounts" interspersed with 4 on "AoIR 6.0 Chicago 2005 Registration 
> is now open", 1 each on "iCS 8.2", "Call for proposals", and "Internet 
> and fun/joy/pleasure".
> In the three days since, "London" vanished, some of the other threads 
> continued, and new ones appeared. This is no doubt the nature of most 
> conversations on this list, and perhaps everything that could be said 
> about shock and bearing up and giving sympathy was expressed in the 
> comments that were posted, and/or continuation has moved to other 
> venues. But I had some cognitive dissonance reading the disparate 
> threads as business-as-usual went on for many (including me) while 
> others were wondering just how "usual" their lives were going to 
> continue to be.
> I'm not familiar with any of the literature on shock, but some levels 
> or layers of protection are evident in the acts of just getting on 
> with things, whatever those immediate things that consume us may be. 
> At the same time, I'm aware it would also be counterproductive (at 
> least to purposes of peace and justice) to mine the event for all its 
> tragedy, as this would play into political efforts to cast the attack 
> in symbolic terms that fuel nationalisms and other hatreds.
> Shock, by definition, puts one in a state of non-responsiveness; the 
> challenge may be the degree to which that lack of response gets 
> carried over or continued into the return to the mundane, especially 
> after the state-of-shock has worn off.
> best,
> steph
> http://www.reflexivity.us
> On Jul 10, 2005, at 3:07 PM, air-l-aoir.org-request at listserv.aoir.org 
> wrote:
>> Hello all--a colleague of mine asked me if I could help him with the
>> following question. I'm not an authority on the Frankfurt School or its
>> theorization of shock but hope that some of you out there might be. Any
>> suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
>> Ken
>> His problem/question is as follows:
>> Much ink has been spilt over shock within Frankfurt School writings. A
>> concept clearly taken over from Simmel and Freud, shock runs to the 
>> heart
>> of Benjamin's media theory. But have Benjamin and Adorno appropriated 
>> the
>> term as face value without ever considering the implications of their
>> assertions? Adorno's thinking would seem to intimate that at some future
>> date nothing will ever shock us anymore, for the body will have 
>> developed
>> such a thick protective barrier that nothing harmful will ever get
>> through--an idea worth resisting in itself.
>> Are there any sustained studies of the question of shock particularly
>> within the domain of media Are there any articles within media theory 
>> that
>> address the matter of shock in a postmodern, digital world?
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