Wednesday, 18 January 2012

And so in a day where internet protests reached a new level with SOPA/PIPA blackouts (where to start with commentary on this? Here, here, here?) we arrive at the second myth, that of The Scapegoat.

In taking Lule's text Daily News, Eternal Stories, I've barely touched upon what his justification for using myths is. So, why is it important that we should link news and myth? And, therefore, why is it important that I should spend time detecting the myths within news' current predicament?

News and myth, Lule argues, both tell real stories. Myth is not fiction or fable, it is a true history that verses, and is versed, in reality. There is no symbolism in myth and there is no symbolism in news.

The Scapegoat is the second of Lule's myths to be found between the broadsheets, yellow papers and red-tops. The function of The Scapegoat is a societal one. The Scapegoat is used to show us what happens when we deviate from societal norms. It is the vilified criminal, the shamed teacher, the corrupt politician and the radical cleric.

In the story of news however, it is important to ask the question - whose society do the norms belong to?

Of course, there's the internet as candidate. There's always the internet. Is it The Scapegoat? The papers are full of stories about demonic chatrooms, phished pensioners and VC-funded excesses. Is the old establishment hitting back at the revenue-stealing web and denoting it as The Scapegoat?

The Scapegoat warns us not to challenge or ignore social beliefs, so it would seem only right that if journalists and print are the victims, then it must be web enterprises who are to blame for the news downturn. The internet is The Scapegoat in the eyes of the industry.

Because, of course, the news industry is the media industry. Challenge us, the industry says, and you will end up like this, this, this thing… bloated and uncontrolled and open to criminality and it's-not-as-free-as-it-looks. A den of inequity, full of quick bucks, stolen content and shifting sands. SOPA and PIPA are Scapegoat potions, potions that seem  - thankfully - not to be working.

The crucial point they're missing, is that when you view those that push boundaries as good for society, not bad, The Scapegoat can be a positive thing. The internet instills new ways of working and thinking and earning and creating. For media, for newspapers, for all of us.

That sounds more like the web we know and love doesn't it? The meaning of scapegoat has shifted over the years from one vilified as a warning to society, to one unfairly accused, a fall guy for the wrongdoing of others. Sounds about right.

And (thankfully, for I am running out of places to hide) it leaves convenient space for the next myth in the story of news - The Hero.

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