gatekeeping

For communication scientists, the term gatekeeping indicates the selective omission of news by a press or political authority to influence public opinion. The first to write about it was researcher David Manning White in the essay The Gatekeeper: A Case Study in the Selection of News (1950). Using categories closest to us, gatekeeping thus understood is a passive spin – that is, where the spin doctor does not manufacture the news, but omits it – and anticipates the case of the "false synecdoche" introduced by Vladimiro Giacché in The Fake Factory . There it was observed that the manipulation of the public does not stem so much from the lack of information, but rather from its propensity to interpret the totality of the related event on the basis of the information selected by the gatekeeper . As in the rhetorical figure of the synecdoche, the part thus becomes the whole and deforms it to adapt it to the meanings of those who extrapolated it. Concerning that intuition, I wrote in The narrated crisis :

since the reader … will tend to fill the empty spaces between the episodes narrated to reconstruct inwardly a vision of the whole object that replicates those informational inputs instinctively taken as representative, the narrator's dishonesty does not lie so much in reticence or in judgments as in the implication promise to offer a sample of representations proportionally faithful to reality.

In recent years a second meaning has spread, rather far from the original, in which the element to be retained is no longer information but its possibility of having the effects for which it was conceived and diffused . This is segregandone messages in a "fence" (gate) dialectical and entrusting the supervision of a "guardian" (gatekeeper), in order, is entitled to hold the speech becoming its leader, spokesperson, sponsor, inspirational, theoretical etc. Once the hostile dialectic is dominated, the gatekeeper can thus dictate its contents and sterilize their results, for example political ones, censor them or serve them for purposes other than the original ones, in certain opposite cases. The gatekeeping thus understood can refer to two moments or requirements plus one: title + segregation (+ perversion) .

The advertising technique offers numerous examples. In a commercial a few years ago, a biscuit brand was advertised, telling images of the happy existence of a family at an old mill immersed in the countryside. The plot reflected the desire of the public to consume genuine food in the reassuring setting of artisan manufactures, family affections and pristine landscaping. It should therefore be surprising that its aim was instead to promote … industrial products mass-produced in some gray suburban shed, with preservatives and additives certainly unrelated to any canon of "tradition". The filmmakers first blandivano recipients emphatically putting on stage the needs, then won their trust, accreditatisi that is as credible performers and holders of those needs (naming), referred them to their denial (perversion). The spot traced the "enclosure" within which a speech was captured ( segregated ) which, if free to develop, would undermine the interests of the client. By entitling him, he instead used the seduction to promote those interests.

The Hollywood film is another mammoth, gatekeeping laboratory to the extent that lends itself to the representation (naming) of the evils of Western society and North American – corruption, collusion of the public authorities with private and criminal organizations, militarism, terrorism, commodification and technicalization of human life, deindustrialisation, violence, degradation, social exclusion etc. – to stifle the denunciation and any political countermeasures of the public ( segregation ). How? Including in the cinematographic fiction the "antibodies" that defeat those evils and attributing to them the happy ending of the plot: a handful of fearless (super) heroes, intact officers and soldiers, the "healthy part" of society, a repentant villain etc. . so as to cultivate in the spectator the perception of a civilization despite everything capable of amending itself or, even further upstream, of stigmatizing and atoning for one's public in shame.

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In political affairs it is plausible that gatekeeping has always existed, in some form. Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa had one of his characters say that " if we want everything to remain as it is, everything must change ", that is, whoever has an interest in maintaining the status quo must name the requests for change to bring them to a dead end and, possibly enlist their advocates against any attempt at real change. It is in democracy that gatekeeping finds its ideal terrain because there, being unable to repress the expression of ideas, those who are threatened can only make them their own to mitigate, discredit or hijack them according to their own advantage. However, it is not a useless or excessive investment. Having entered the ranks of his antagonists, the gatekeeper assimilates them and binds them to himself by weaving a network of real and moral obligations that make his identification in the hostile field difficult, if not impossible and, therefore, also a frank contrast of interests, for example of class. Here is the advantage: that gatekeeping disrupts the friend-enemy dialectic and makes it cloudy not only because it rests on the disguise in definition, but even more because, in propagating it in a cascade, it causes the kept to become keeper and put their zeal to supervise the enclosure. It would therefore be misleading to speak of good or bad faith .

On the contrary, it can give itself a depersonalized reading of the phenomenon and recognize the immune system of a social investment that must be defended not so much by its enemies, but first by its failures. Because the strategies of this response reveal the fundamental vice, the soft nucleus of a social order that claims to stand on the free meeting of supply and demand – of products and services, but also of ideas, of political proposals – which in practice, however, rewards those who empathically represents needs and not those who satisfy them, those who narrate problems and not those who solve them. This explains the dense blanket of symbols and narrations, almost always childish, which oppress the self-styled era of cold scientific data and the truly abnormal investments that absorb the aforementioned film and advertising industries, not to mention that of journalistic "opinion". On the stage of this perennial hut, the material and spiritual needs of men are mimicked to exorcise their denial . It is Guy Debord's "société du spectacle" where "le consommateur réel devient consommateur d'illusions".

Does the strategy work? Ni . Taking up an ancient formula, gatekeeping reincarnates the circences that warm the typhus of the masses, polarize it and direct it towards hidden ends under manifest insignia. To be effective, however, its towing must go in parallel with a more tangible panem , with a direct or indirect advantage that lubricates its forcing. If it is true, for example, that some post-war communist parties also fulfilled the task of deactivating the revolutionary intentions of their electors by segregating them in the fence of liberal democracies, this could only happen because at the same time there was an effective improvement in the economic and working conditions of the classes. subaltern. The operation thus became "forgivable". But, without panem , gatekeeping is naked as the king of the fairy tale, it discovers and devours itself in the overlap of what it claims and then denies. It doesn't last.

At this terminal and grotesque stage a market appears to be imposing its products – financial instruments, unnecessary and cumbersome "digital revolutions", mass pharmacotherapies, etc. – pretending more and more wearily the benefits or the crumbs of panem for consumers, while almost always delivering the opposite of what it promises. And so does politics. With the 2015 consultative referendum Alexis Tsipras solicited and collected from his fellow citizens the mandate to reject exactly the same measures ( here and here ) that his governments would then implement, with a zeal as fierce downwards as servile upwards and delivering the country to colonial-like slavery . Even among those who acclaimed the reasons there was no lack of awareness that with that turnaround the Greek leader founded the archetype of the Europeanist gatekeeping, of a continental political project that now stands only on self-denial , on the eternal reference to a "Other" Europe that neither exists nor can be seen.

Gatekeeping thus reveals its ultimate property, which is epistemic and anthropological. It not only signals the anxiety of a system but also a need for truth so strong as to represent the most appetizing commercial and electoral bait and deny once and forever the infamous rhetoric of a populace thirsting for "fake news". On the contrary, it is the existing power relations and their institutions – productive, economic, political, cultural – that have to prostitute and betray the truth in order to preserve their pathological imbalances, the more shamelessly the more the center of gravity moves upwards and towards the few, stripping the base.

These trends, and the fact that we are talking about gatekeeping in this sense today, suggest that the gap between theory and practice is widening in an unbearable, dangerous way, up to the inversion. And they translate an alarm: that if democracy has nothing more to give materially, soon it may have nothing more to say.


This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Il Pedante at the URL http://ilpedante.org/post/gatekeeping on Thu, 25 Apr 2019 16:52:00 PDT.