It’s The Way I Tell Me

(Beginning a new series, in which my more awake half answers the questions posed by my sleepier, dumber half.)

 
 

Dear I,

 
 

Why are news sites like the Guardian and RTE reporting on the outcome of last night’s The Apprentice, which is, after all, a TV gameshow and not the real world?

 
 

Dear I,

 
 

Thanks for your question, which is premised on a few assumptions that need examining. I know this sounds patronising and ever so slightly nerdish, but I am of course free to patronise you as much as I wish.

 
 

The first is that news sites are interested in saying things about the real world. They aren’t. They are interested in saying things about the real world only in so far as this coincides with their business goals. If saying things about the real world directly goes against these goals, they won’t do it.

 
 

The second assumption is the existence of a real world. There is, of course, a real world out there, in which people are killed by falling pianos, and tearful girlfriends run in despair after the train carrying their manly lover as it pulls out of the station. But it is wrong to think that news production was ever particularly concerned with this real world. In fact, it mediates and re-presents this world in accordance with institutional priorities, which are formed by a wide range of factors, none of which I can be bothered going into here.

 
 

Third, that the ‘outcome’ of last night’s The Apprentice is what you think it is. You use the word as though the narrative that unfolded on screen actually delivered something of real significance. As though whatever else there was to the content of the programme -the suspense-laden pauses, the pompous boardroom politics, the quest for approval from authority figures, the continuing tributes to capitalist bullies and so on- had in fact produced a real event.

 
 

Again, I can’t be bothered going into the question of what might constitute a real event. I will just say this: The Apprentice is a gameshow, a carefully designed product. To talk in terms of ‘outcomes’ or ‘what happened’ doesn’t say much other than pay tribute to how the product has fulfilled its intended purpose. It’s like remarking on how this morning’s Weetabix tasted the same as that of the day before. Of course, there are differences. For starters, Weetabix is not designed to generate cut-and-paste press releases and post-breakfast interviews. It isn’t much of a talking point on which to hang other lifestyle articles that might attract potential advertisers for revenue.

 
 

I realise haven’t actually answered your question here. That is, even if you accept that news sites don’t do what you expect them to do and the outcome isn’t what you might immediately think it is, there is still the matter of the particular appeal of The Apprentice. But once more, I can’t be bothered. But please, keep ’em coming.

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3 Responses to “It’s The Way I Tell Me”


  1. 1 Donagh June 6, 2008 at 10:50 am

    The finale of The Apprentice was last night? I missed it because I was living in the real world avoiding falling pianos and nursing a stiff drink in a bar while consoling myself that if my lover chooses to leave forever on a train then that’s fine. I am not going to go running after them.

    But I don’t understand why people are so willing to spend their evenings watching the usual types, those with far too much nervous energy and short tempers, run around in business suits. Do they not get enough of that when they’re sitting in their office during the day?

  2. 2 Hugh Green June 6, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    I’ve no idea if it was last night – I don’t think so. Maybe people watch The Apprentice because it seems more real than their own office job. That is – real life working in an office is devoid of opportunities for what Badiou might call the passion of the Real. It isn’t even ‘Really’ boring: just a series of inconsequential experiences which neither wound nor excite, which don’t really add up to a condition of slow death, but are more like the fact of being dead. So when people turn on The Apprentice, what they want to see is what work is really like, with all these drastic decisions and raging ambitions. It is part of a search for authenticity. The irony here being that the hankering for authenticity comes from a concept of what work ought to be like which is of itself the creation of mass media. If that makes sense. And I’m perfectly willing to be convinced that it doesn’t.

  3. 3 Donagh June 6, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Indeed mass media’s production of the ‘authentic’ (which is in fact heightened or exaggerated rather than being real) for the TV watching masses almost desperately tries to avoid the ordinary. Which is kind of weird. People think their ordinary life is without value. But if you’re going to refer to Badiou, I can name check Raymond Williams and say culture IS ordinary life.


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