Bourdieu's withering critique of television created a furor in France that lasted several months after airing of the two televised lectures that this broadside comprises. The author, a sociology professor in Paris, damns television as an enemy of critical discourse and a tool of social control that reinforces the status quo by decontextualizing events and fostering ignorance and passivity. For American readers, his acid appraisal will provide shudders of recognition, as when he writes: "Our news anchors, our talk show hosts, and our sports announcers have turned into two-bit spiritual guides, representatives of middle-class morality. They are always telling us what we `should think.' " Tabloid TV journalism, endless trivia and "human-interest" stories, programs pandering to mass audiences, telejournalists' defining of a narrow agenda of acceptable issues are served up with Gallic intellectualism and a dollop of structuralist analysis. (Apr.)
Two leading intellectuals look at the impact of commercially motivated cultural production on today's media-saturated culture. In her methodical and readable book, Bok (formerly philosophy, Brandeis; now distinguished fellow at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies) examines the shallow debates surrounding violent entertainments, especially on television. She fleshes out both sides of the issue, offering a rigorous discussion of the ill effects of violent shows and of censorship, and then advances nongovernmental solutions to curbing exposure to violent media. While packed with citations and rich in anecdote, this book is slim and serves to refocus the debate rather than advance any new position or findings. Still, as discussions of the V-chip and similar efforts continue, this may be the best primer for a serious debate. In his more interesting but also more demanding work, Bourdieu (sociology, College de France, Paris) critiques the effects of the medium of television on the practice of journalism and, by extension, on other professions, on government, and on all of society. The bulk of the book is made up of two lectures that Bourdieu delivered over his university's television station, which drew heated criticism from prominent journalists and brought this book to France's best sellers lists last year. Because of the origins of the work there are few citations, but Bourdieu didn't dumb down his language, and the sometimes polemical text demands concentration. Though he mostly refers to French examples, the morass of vapid pontificators on "news" talk shows and the pervasive self-censorship of the marketplace are all too familiar to American audiences. This insightful and disturbing work belongs in all academic libraries as well as subject collections in larger public institutions; Bok's work is recommended for most public libraries.‘Eric Bryant, "Library Journal"