Marxism in the Media
“To my distress and perhaps to my delight, I order things in accordance with my passions. I put in my pictures everything I like. So much worse for the things—they have to get along with one another.”
The above quote raises some interesting questions one must consider about the mass media. What decides which messages the media portrays to the consumer? What must a medium contain that makes us want to watch it? Maybe the artists just make what interests them. Or perhaps the messages are simply used for entertainment and are based on what sells or what is popular. This is true to an extent but this is merely a scratch in the surface of these burning questions. There are many theories that seek to explain the purpose of the mass media, but this paper will discuss Marxist media theory. This paper will get past the surface and discuss the goals and purpose of the media in Marx’s opinion.
In its truest form, Marxism is a humanistic group of thoughts and ideas that states that everyone should have equally productive lives. It strives to dismantle the class struggle between the Bourgeoisie and Proletariat. Marx believes in a humanistic ideology that parallels the thought that everyone is created equal. Marxist theorists conceive that one important role of the media is to reproduce the status quo. Simply stated the media is said to perpetuate norms. Like previously stated, a class struggle exists between the upper and lower classes and it is quite evident. The upper class had a stronghold on the media because they had the most money. Therefore, they were able to control what everyone thought was the desired lifestyle and culture norms. They used the media to convince the other classes that what the upper class enjoyed should be what is desirable. This is in a way similar to Picasso’s quote. He painted things that appealed to him rather then what others wanted him to.
By keeping the status quo, the capitalist economic system stays in motion.
“American Capitalism finds its sharpest and most expressive reflection in American cinema.” (Marxist Overtones 1; cited from Eisenstein’s Film Form) There are many things that could explain why the upper class’s perspective was disseminated upon the masses. First off, it takes money to run a medium. Since they have the most money, they have the luxury of running the media. Also, with money comes education. Not only were the lower classes poor in comparison, but they were also less educated. Because of their underprivileged status, they were very susceptible to being manipulated. They lacked the knowledge to think for themselves, so they bought in to the status quo that was generated by the upper class.
Economism, or vulgar Marxism, is a key feature in explaining the media’s role according to Marx. This is also referred to as the base/superstructure model. In economism, “the economic base of society is seen as...