Memory Games Spectacle: Bread&Circuses

The trick of today is media induced loss of short term memory. The relentlessly insipid everydayness of the news means that patterns of ideology are overlooked, dismissed as coincidence or conspiracy. The day after Lord Levy is arrested and the prime minister asked to ‘help the police with their inquiries’ the next day’s headlines report a new terrorist threat. How often such ‘breakthroughs’ in the war on terror come after 6 months of investigation should be plotted against otherwise embarrassing headlines that the government would rather bury. That the media overlooks such coincidence is certainly unremarkable. What was the name of the Labour Party press officer whose memo declared on September 11, 2001 that the day would be a good one for the release of any bad news?

This is not a specialty of only the British press. My friend and head of film studies at Jadavpur University, Abhijit Roy, was arguing for an analysis of media events as spectacular but soon forgotten sensations. I am broadly in agreement with this, especially when considering the electoral prospects of, say, the CPM after Nandigram (or New Labour after Blair). Having moved quickly when forced to recognize the need, Buddhadev Battarcharjee has probably started to learn that the complexity of events look less convoluted from a distance of months or a year or two. Come the next polls who will remember details beyond the 14 figure of those killed by police (even as the number of dead is higher, the first given figure is lodged in minds) and that Buddha acted swiftly to diffuse the conflict? An understanding, and deft manipulation, of something like a spectacular sensations theory of media is just what a contemporary Machiavelli would offer as counsel for a leader today.

Did such counsel come via the figure of Mandelson for Blair? The comparison does not scan because the Italian was more interesting, but flattery also will help line one’s nest with favours, so no surprise. The spectacular is more often than not left unspecified, which is very useful: being open to dexterous turnings, twistings, convolutings makes content serve whoever masters its massage.

Hmmm, forgot what I was trying to say… mumble mumble… the spectacular is not smooth space either… and its images are fleeting … the first pic is of some hand prints on a wall on Rafi Kidwai Ahmed Road – I guess the old code would have to have noted they recall other hand prints commemorating immolations, sati etc., – but these were done by kids on the day of the bandh; the second pic is a snap of the TV news on Nandigram; the third is of a bus ticket collector in traffic a couple of days after the bandh – business as usual. I did not get a pic of the burnt out bus, but I add this to an emergent bus theme, also pictured here.

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