Undoing kitsch: why I am asking for your financial support.

Writers today confront challenges similar to musicians. People don’t expect to pay for online content, or the music they listen to. It is time for that attitude to change.

I have added a pop-up to this site, allowing readers to contribute financially after spending longer than two minutes on an article.

Large organisations such as the Guardian and Radiohead put out excellent material and seem to thrive, but unfortunately it is the Daily Mail and X-Factor that dominate our culture space. Independent voices are difficult to discern above this cacophony, and we can’t expect Radiohead and the Guardian to undo the damage alone.

I believe I have worked hard enough to develop ideas that should be listened to, and the current media constellation gives me insufficient opportunities. Fortunately, social media allows me to reach people directly.

I don’t expect a first-time reader to contribute, but if you believe I am performing a valuable service I would really appreciate your help, so I can keep going…

This Digital Age has dawned crisp and fresh, but the night has been long and heavy. Our senses seem blunted. As if through a miasma of intoxication, we recall encounters, but these memories fade rapidly before further flashing stimuli. A vast pool of information beckons, though we have not measured the depths, and fear a lurking monster in the deep.

A yearning for meaning is fixed in our collective unconscious. We seek direction, and purpose, yet fields of knowledge are obscured by professional intransigence, and ideologies seem discredited. Still, the cynicism we are left with leaves a fetid odour.

I have lived on both sides of a technological divide. Until my twenties letters and expensive phone calls were how we conquered distance. I remember a summer holiday when a group of us enjoyed access to a single cassette tape – in itself a remarkable departure – as well as the excitement of waiting for a pharmacist to process holiday snaps. Most of us have taken the ease of communication and access to information in our stride, but it is miraculous, and we stagger under the weight of its sudden, transformative, impact.

With this power in our hands, our civilisation is like a young foal taking its first steps: clumsily and injudiciously, yet brimming with an energy that cannot be restrained. The reach of the new technology is global, and its consequences already seismic. George Steiner wrote in 2001: ‘I believe that the current changes in the experience of communication, of information, of knowledge, of the generation of meaning and of form, are probably the most comprehensive and consequential since homo sapiens’ development of language itself’.

This brings new challenges to how we “do” journalism, which George Orwell defined as: ‘printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.’ With the advent of the Internet, mainstream publications have tended to consolidate, partly under pressure from declining advertising revenues. This reduces the scope for freelancers to contribute, and, importantly, for alternative viewpoints to be ventilated. Unfortunately, much of our media space has turned into an extended sales pitch.

The Czech author Milan Kundera described what passed for public discourse in Communist Czechoslovakia as political kitsch in his novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984). This emanates from an aesthetic ideal ‘in which shit is denied and everyone acts as though it did not exist’. ‘Kitsch’, he argued, ‘is the aesthetic ideal of all politicians and all political parties and movements’. It is the dream scenario of the spin doctor who plays the press like a violin. He gives the example of politicians kissing babies as an obvious expression political of kitsch, and it is certainly hard to imagine one volunteering to change a nappy!

Kundera was writing about a totalitarian government that ended in the early 1990s. He believed the West was immune from the excesses of kitsch. But there are forces at work across Europe and the United States today aiming to deny “shit”. Unfortunately the vision of a free Internet remains unrealised, and it is only with great difficulty that campaigning and investigative journalism occurs; especially in a small country such as Ireland, where a radical press faded away after independence was won in 1921.

For a long time I despaired at what I encounter in the Irish media. The absence of the environmentalist voice is a particular source of angst, and coverage of the arts tends to be obsequious. The mainstream of journalistic opinion is found in the centre-right, and the few left-wing commentators around have been repeating the same mantras, to no great effect, for decades.

Rather than banging my head against the wall of organisations that rarely allow me to express my views, I have decided to go out on my own and communicate directly with readers via my own website. To do this, however, I need financial support. I certainly don’t expect to grow rich out of this, but it would be great just to be able to keep going, and use anything spare to pay for publishing and promoting articles online.

I have no upper or lower limit in terms of what I think is an appropriate contribution. Any assistance would be greatly appreciate.

Leave a Reply