Another painful antiporn piece from Robert Jensen, this time with Gail Dines. Even when he’s writing about sex, Jensen is pedantic, boring, and unfailingly correct.
I’ll leave the rebuttal of the article’s antiporn silliness to those better positioned than me, but I will note that it does contain a couple of (accidental) gems. After warning us that “[s]exual desire can constrain people’s capacity for critical reason” and that “[l]eftists–especially left men–need to get over the obsession with getting off,” the authors write:
Critiques of the power of commercial corporate media are ubiquitous on the left. Leftists with vastly different political projects can come together to decry conglomerates’ control over news and entertainment programming. Because of the structure of the system, it’s a given that these corporations create programming that meets the needs of advertisers and elites, not ordinary people.
Jensen and Dines think applying this mode of critique would illuminate how pornography exploits. I think it nicely illuminates why leftist media criticism sucks. Such criticism performs its routines always employing the same motifs: the obligatory recitation of the three evil C’s, commercial, corporate, and consolidation (the latter is not stated by Jensen and Dines, but it’s always implied); the lamentation, in Jensen and Dines’s words, that “profit-hungry corporative [sic] executives construct our culture” (as opposed to all those charity-hungry execs?); the banal assertion that media companies pursue their own interests above all else (I’m shocked, shocked); the conviction that corporate-media content is all about brainwashing and indoctrination; and the conclusion that the people are just unblinking recipients of such ideological overload. Media critics never countenance that “the ordinary people” it speaks for could actually enjoy corporate entertainment, or that they could use it for their own purposes, or that they could both see and disregard the ideology it contains.
What’s more troubling about this style of political critique is that, despite making gestures toward being a structural analysis, it nonetheless posits an outsider (the corporate conglomerate) that transcends the natural social order and is ruining “our” (the people’s) social yearnings. In a word, it’s an analysis that is populist. Populist criticism of course rests on two fundamental tenets: (1) what’s needed is not social transformation but regime change, new, less-corrupt personnel that will leave the social institutions intact; and (2) “the people” is an empowered group and should be the source of power, but the people is also an act of exclusion, a way of drawing lines between groups; sometimes the line is drawn between rulers and the ruled, but often it is drawn between one people and another. In short, the antipolitics of populism makes it amenable to nationalism, militarism, and capitalism.