Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The Man Without Qualities visits a newspaper

After an excursion into crime fiction in the mild forms of Derek Raymond, Garbhan Downey, and Charlie Stella, I'm back with more from The Man Without Qualities (Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften, if you prefer the original German), by my man Robert Musil.

Unlike some of the bits I've quoted from this supremely entertaining novel, these latest have nothing to do with crime fiction. One, however, does contain some telling and entertaining reflections on newspapers (and, by extension, media that did not exist when Musil worked on the novel from 1930 to 1942):
"`His Grace believes that we must take our direction from the land and the times,' he explained gravely. `Believe me, it comes naturally of owning land.'"
and
"If he were alive today, Plato—to take him as an example, because along with about a dozen others he is regarded as the greatest thinker who ever lived—would certainly be ecstatic about a news industry capable of creating, exchanging, refining a new idea every day; where information keeps pouring in from the ends of the earth with a speediness he never knew in his own lifetime, while a staff of demiurges is on hand to check it all out for its content of reason and reality. [ed. note: Ha!] ... The moment his return has ceased to be news, however, and Mr. Plato tried to put into practice one of his well-known ideas, which had never quite come into their own, the editor in chief would ask him to submit only a nice little piece on the subject now and then for the Life and Leisure section..." 
© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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7 Comments:

Blogger R.T. said...

Plato with staff checking news content for reality? Funny idea there!

January 08, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I don't know which is funnier: Plato in a newspaper, or the idea of anyone checking content carefully.

January 08, 2013  
Blogger Dave Whish-Wilson said...

I can see a useful role for the cadet journalist Plato, assigned to tending the paper's blog page and online comments section. There, his spirit might be broken on the wheel of attempting to usefully lead trolls and others towards a revelation of their faulty and ideologically driven thinking (until he became inevitably beaten down by the rancour and bile etc...)

January 08, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Second try:

I have no trouble believing that a Plato of the copy desk would regard the garbage that flows across his desk each day as feeble shadows not just of ideal news stories but of minimally competent ones.

January 08, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That is to say that our Front-Page Plato would not have to look outside the newsroom for faulty thinking, rancor, and bile.

January 08, 2013  
Blogger Dave Whish-Wilson said...

I wonder if, with his background, he mightn't vote Republican and work for the Murdoch press. Not sure about his more earthy avatar, Socrates though, would probably get into trouble, Julian Assange style, for taking on the executive.

January 08, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Hmm, Blogger must not like the direction this discussion is taking. It's swallowing comments left and right.

I tried to say that I like to think of my SOcrates as getting in trouble Aung San Suu Kyi or Nelson Mandela or Vaclac Havel-style.

January 09, 2013  

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