John, Meet Karl


This is a comment I posted on John Waters’s article today in the Irish Times titled ‘Media ignores the news in pursuit of liberal agenda’

When it comes to what gets included and what gets left out by the media, one interesting example in the Irish context is the figure of Karl Marx. Five years in to the latest capitalist crisis, I can’t recall any feature on capitalism’s most famous critic in any Irish media outlet. Elsewhere, many outlets have devoted attention to whether or not Marx had anything interesting to say, if only to make a show of how informed and open-minded their devotion to capitalism is.

In Ireland, there has been next to nothing. Why? Residual anti-communism? A fear of unleashing violent passions among the public? Bog standard anti-intellectualism? Whatever it is, it places the Irish public at a loss. You don’t have to be a Marxist to see that Marx has some interesting things to say about capitalism.

And about ideology too. It’s head-buried-in-the-cushion embarrassing to see John Waters go on about the ideological function of Ireland’s media and their agenda as if these things bore no relation to the material constitution of Irish society: who owns what, who does what, who serves whom, and so on.

In the German Ideology, Marx wrote – that ‘the class which is the ruling material force of society.. is at the same time its ruling intellectual force.’ Moreover, they ‘regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age’.  What this means is that the decisions on what gets left in and what gets left out, and how things are expressed, in newspapers, TV programmes and so on,  arise, in the final instance, from class conflict. This is because the ruling class must ‘represent its interest as the common interest of all the members of society’. Or, as the man used to say, we are all in this together.

But since there is no such thing as class in Ireland *cough*, or at least, everyone is middle class nowadays *cough*, it seems Marx and others can be ignored, and we can ignore material interests altogether in seeking to understand how ideology treats ‘matters of true social importance’, as John Waters puts it.

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