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June 7, 2004

Politics As Spectacle: Reagan24/7Reagan24/7Reagan24/7

“The oldest social specialization, the specialization of power, is at the root of the spectacle. The spectacle is thus a specialized activity which speaks for all the others. It is the diplomatic representation of hierarchic society to itself, where all other expression is banned. Here the most modern is also the most archaic.” –The Society of the Spectacle. Guy Debord, 1967.

One of the things I want to look at with this blog is the extent to which politics functions as entertainment or as reality replacement. To that end, I’ve have been interested in the writings of Guy Debord, the social philosopher who wrote Society of the Spectacle. It would be one thing if a full (calendar + political + media) week dedicated to the passing of Ronald Reagan reflected a genuine, collective emotional reaction. Unfortunately, however, the scale of it already feels more perfunctory. (Earlier, for example, I read how the “Reagan break” was functioning as a much needed time-out in the protracted Presidential campaign.)

Given the hoopla, I was interested in seeing how (and how much) the story was playing on the Newsmap, a visual translation of the Google News Aggregator which “sizes” the most prominent news story based on number of related links. Because the utility is pretty new, I’ve only got about a month to go on. In that time, however, I have yet to see a story (including Abu Ghraib at it’s peak) that has commanded as much space as this one. This is a snapshot of the map from this afternoon. For visual clarity, I have rendered the three panels dedicated to Reagan in violet. I’ve seen a couple instances where there were three references to the same story on the same map, but not with these kinds of sizes.

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