[Note: The professors comment for my last entry made think that I had missed the mark on what I had intended to say in my last paragraph of my preceding blog post.
I hope it is not copping out to go and redress this for the Thurs. assignment, because the story is still running strong, even more so that that more information has been emerging.
Comment: Do you think the media’s need to justify the Pope’s actions is a reflection of a deep cynicism? While some cited Pope Benedict’s health, others have speculated on some other angle.]
[Insert ANY story about the resignation of Pope Benedict XIV here]
The frequent use of referents, testimony from experts or otherwise, and other attempts to explicate a ‘truth’ in media coverage of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI is not the reflection of a deep cynicism but rather a phenomenon that has turned ascertainment of the ‘truth’ behind the circumstances an event, such as this one, into an unwieldy, and inaccurate process that through seeking to rationalize what otherwise may be irrational actually distorts, or adds elements that otherwise might not exist in, the ‘truth’.
The process of explicating all of the surrounding details around an event in search of the truth is rooted in the judicial and penitentiary system. In this system an identity must be given to a defendant or person in question through exposition of motive and other external factors, such as mental health, in order to properly administer their punishment.
In ‘Discipline and Punish’ Michel Foucault writes about the occurrence of this phenomenon. Foucault argues that the process of administering judgement and punishment is no longer a method of determining whether the act was committed and can be punished but instead a larger process that turns assertion of guilt in a scientific process.
Foucault posits, “To be more precise, within the very judicial modality of judgement, other types of assessment have slipped in, profoundly altering its rules of elaboration…to judge was to establish the truth of a crime, it was to determine its author and to apply a legal punishment. Knowledge of the offence, knowledge of the offender, knowledge of the law: these three conditions made it possible to ground a judgement in truth. But now a quite different is inscribed in the course of the penal judgement. The question is no longer simply: ‘Has the act been established and is it punishable?” But also: ‘What is this act? What is this act of violence and murder? To what level or to what field of reality does it belong? Is is a phantasy, a psychotic reaction, a delusional episode, a perverse action? It is no longer simply: “Who committed it?’ But: ‘How can we assign the causal process that produced it? Where did it originate in the author himself? Instinct, unconscious, environment, heredity? But: ‘What would be the most appropriate measures to take? How do we see the future developing of the offender? What would be the best way of rehabilitating him? A whole set of assessing, diagnostic, prognostic, normative judgements concerning the criminal have become lodged in the framework of penal judgment. Another truth has penetrated the truth that was required by the legal machinery. A truth, which entangled with the first, has turned the assertion of guilt into a strange scientifico-juridical process” (Foucault 17-18).
In Foucault’s “scientifico-juridical” process everything must be codified or placed into the proper strata that it belongs; whether it is motive, identity, or punishment. The inclusion of such varying fields of study into the penal process has altered the nature of truth.
This process of altering the truth in a “scientifico-juridical” manner has become a methodology incorporated into systems other than the penal one. This codification process can be witnessed in other institutions such as hospitals or schools; rooms or areas in hospitals or schools are designed and sectioned by their uses and purposes. .
Why is this important to, or how does it relate to media coverage of the popes resignation?
Media analyzation of the motives behind Pope Benedict’s resignation, a mass shooter, or any of its focal subjects, have also adopted Foucault’s strange process.
Since media have integrated all of these forms of Foucault’s “scientifico-juricidial” process they have become a judge, trying the subject they are covering and creating a new, different version of truth in a manner similar to that of the penal system.
Informal punishment through social conventions and norms exist alongside the system of formal punishment that exists in the establishment of laws, and political power. Media present the viewer with the evidence to damn or acquit the person in question in the creation of a larger new ‘truth’
To drive directly to the point, is this process ‘truth’?
I do not see it as truth but rather a substitution of a sensible reality with that of an unsensible one; the actions of a mentally ill person, or otherwise.
It is impeccably odd that we must make sense of events this way solely because irrational acts don’t appear sensible to rational animals. This process of rationalization is almost a substitution of our ‘reality’ in place of theirs, especially in acts that appear senseless, such as mass shootings.