THE GEOPOLITICS OF INFORMATION: How Western Culture Dominates the World by Anthony Smith

THE GEOPOLITICS OF INFORMATION: How Western Culture Dominates the World

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Anthony Smith, with two new books on the heels of Goodbye Gutenberg (p. 766), appears himself to have mastered the large-scale storage and retrieval of information that he heralds there. More power to him. This is most precisely seen as a review and evaluation of the Third-World complaints against ""media imperialism"" which crystallized in the UNESCO call for a New International Information Order; but it also complements Newspapers and Democracy (below), which treats of analogous issues in the developed world. Here, Smith recapitulates the development of an inevitably ethnocentric European world-view (of ""the observers and the observed"") and its manifestations in the media; he restates the Third-World charges that culture-bound media attitudes (like post-colonial dismay at Third World foul-ups) cause increasing deprivation, that cultural domination fosters economic dependency, and the Western defense of a free flow of information. And he endorses both--finding them, however, ""conceptually irreconcilable."" In an unequal world, ""a free and balanced flow of information"" is a paradox: the stronger force, unchecked, will always dominate the weaker (see, for instance, non-Third-World Canada). But at the close of his particular contribution to this North-South face-off, an analytical history of the five major wire services (Reuters, Agence France-Presse, AP, UP, Tass), he sees hope of bridging the gap between their ""journalism of exception"" (major disasters, spot sensations) and an arid ""journalism of development"" in two new sources of information: the NonAligned News Pool, which circulates news from 41 national agencies; and Inter Press Service, which interprets Third-World problems for a variety of clients. Moving on, Smith warns that electronic information systems could greatly increase the disparity between the information-rich and the information-poor; but the developing nations, he also notes, have a potent weapon in the vulnerability of the developed nations to restrictions of information-flow at national borders. The basic dilemma of each developing nation, though, is to choose between a labor-intensive, self-sustaining ""appropriate technology"" (local paper mills, presses, newspapers) and a capital-intensive, dependent ""high technology"" (video tape and satellite transmission). A highly sophisticated, delicately balanced presentation--aimed at a non-belligerent compromise.

Pub Date: Sept. 4th, 1980
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press