We live in a world saturated with media. We see our reality through them. But these are not transparent operations. They involve the workings of power. Stuart Hall was an outsider. Born in colonial Jamaica. Educated in Oxford. He was out of place in both. He left academia, the literary canon, high
culture … to become an intellectual of mass culture. What he did was controversial. He was looking at the power of mainstream media in representing race, gender, class, ethnicity, religion. Hall said those discourses are not innocent. That hidden in mass media is ideology. The media theorists job
is to find that ideology, expose it, critique it. The media’s racialisation of crime, the patriarchal narratives on gender, the ‘othering’ of immigrants … Muslims … the poor. The media are active agents in this process. But what of the masses? The audiences watching? Hall broke with the presumption that the masses are dumb. Passive. In fact, he questioned who the
faceless masses even are? Some may accept the dominant meanings embedded in the media. Some may negotiate them. Others outright reject them. Where other media theorists argue that messages are imposed
on people from above, Hall said power is not as simple as that. He saw pockets of resistance that undermined dominant media narratives. Think of the bloggers in Tunisia … the graffiti artists of Brazil … Black Lives Matter. But Hall went further. He also told us to seek out stories elsewhere – in lowly, despised, spaces of knowledge. The gossip mags, the soap opera, the music videos. If you want to understand society then maybe avoid the news. Those formalised spaces that house official discourse. Find different stories, different perspectives, different realities.