Monday, December 13, 2010

Media, Memory, and Democracy

Edward P. Morgan, What Really Happened to the 1960s: How Mass Media Culture Failed American Democracy (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2010).

from the publisher:

In his provocative look at mass media’s connection with those turbulent years, Morgan simultaneously seeks to explain what happened in the 1960s and what happened to how we remember it. His comprehensive overview and critical analysis reveal how the mass media have shaped the popular image of a raucous decade in ways that have curtailed its promise of democracy.

Morgan’s in-depth study of sixties social movements and their depictions in corporate America’s print media, film, and television helps to explain why the past still provokes deep emotions—even antagonism—half a century later. He blends history, sociology, political science, media and cultural studies, and critical theory to explain why the 1960s have been so virulently targeted, particularly by critics on the right who blame today’s self-indulgent culture on baby boomers and “sixties permissiveness” instead of the real culprits: consumer-driven capitalism and neoliberal politics.

Emphasizing the tensions between capitalism and democracy, Morgan investigates the fate of democracy in our media-driven culture, first by examining the ways that the 1960s were represented in the media at the time, then by exploring how popular versions of the sixties have glossed over their more radically democratic qualities in favor of sensationalism and ideological constructions. He reminds us of what really happened—then shows us how the media trivialized and satirized those events, co-opting and commercializing the decade’s legacy and, in doing so, robbing it of its more radical, democratic potential.

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